Rich Rodriguez has been around long enough to remember when a spring game used to just be a spring game.
That’s when teams used to just put on the pads, rough each other up for an hour or so and try to help their stock a few months before fall practice begins.
That was so 2000.
Barnum and Bailey may as well be headlining the UA’s spring game today at Arizona Stadium. Football is the undercard.
Pac-12 Networks will air the festivities today and they have two hours of airtime to fill.
That means Arizona has had to get a bit creative because Rodriguez, a man who isn’t a fan of intrasquad scrimmages to begin with, has no interest in having a full-on game for two hours.
So the Wildcats have introduced the “Hard Edge Challenges” to help fill time. Rodriguez and the UA will pick one random student to attempt a 50-yard field goal and another to try to out-throw a UA quarterback. Rodriguez will also go into the stands and pick a random fan to call a play for Arizona’s offense.
“We gotta be creative and fill two hours,” a smiling Rodriguez said. “I also had an ulterior motive. If there is a guy out there kicking 50-yard field goals, I need to get him on the team. And if there’s a quarterback that can throw farther than my quarterbacks, I need to look at him, too
“But if the guy that calls a play calls a touchdown, he can’t have my job.”
Of course, in between the challenges and after a celebrity flag football game at 11:15 a.m., there will be some actual football.
It’s the culmination of spring drills after 15 practices and hours and hours of meetings.
As far as Rich Rodriguez’s three springs go at Arizona, this year was the best.
The Wildcats have so far avoided a major injury for his first time in Tucson. Safety Adam Hall tore his ACL in 2012 and, last year, wide receiver Austin Hill did the same. Arizona has made it through this spring healthy; the team comes into the spring game healthier than it did in the prior two.
“We didn’t have two groups a lot last spring, but this spring we did the whole time,” Rodriguez said. “I think we got more done. We had a lot more bodies and we stayed healthier, which a good thing.
“So I think it’s been really productive.”
However, the major questions that lingered around the Wildcats entering the spring still exist. The quarterback competition is still wide open and there hasn’t been a guy that has separated himself.
The cornerback spot vacated by Shaq Richardson is still up for grabs, and things are still murky at running back and linebacker.
“I tell them they can’t win a job in the spring, but I tell them they can prove they can play,” Rodriguez said. “So I guess that’s kind of the same thing. If we have two guys at one position, they’ll both play. One thing they can do in the spring is they can show us they are a guy we can win with.”
Now, with some fun in the middle, the Wildcats will have the opportunity to show a few thousand people at Arizona Stadium today they are good enough to win with.
“It’ll be fun to get out there and mix it up,” receiver DaVonte Neal said. “It’s something a little different after a long spring of practices and meetings. It should be a lot of fun.”