Rich Rodriguez has spent the last nine months speaking in generalities, careful not to publicly praise — or pressure — any particular player until the Arizona Wildcats’ new coaching staff could fully evaluate everyone.
Monday, the UA’s first-year coach finally tipped his hand.
He released Arizona’s first regular-season depth chart of 2012, five days before Saturday’s opener against Toledo, but he said to expect players not listed on the two- deep to see action against the Rockets.
The informal listing includes a handful of sure things — Matt Scott will start at quarterback, with Ka’Deem Carey at running back — and a few surprises. The word “or”, which appeared 23 times in the Wildcats’ training camp depth chart a month ago, has been removed from the sheet altogether.
“This is just paper, of course,” said Rodriguez, flashing a smile. “We’ll make sure we have 11 (players on the field) on Saturday. I’ll be really upset if we don’t. If we have 10 or 12 or 13 in there it would not be good.”
On paper, these names stood out:
• Fabbians Ebbele, who was suspended for all of spring drills while facing assault charges that were later dropped, projects as the team’s first-team right tackle. Returning starter Mickey Baucus is expected to line up at left tackle, outside of guards Chris Putton and Trace Biskin and center Kyle Quinn.
• Marquis Flowers has moved from safety to linebacker, and will likely start at the weak-side spot on Saturday. Jake Fischer will play middle linebacker, with Hank Hobson on the strong side.
The change to linebacker “wasn’t sudden,” Flowers said. He and the UA’s coaches had discussed the move throughout camp.
• Chris Merrill was listed ahead of Willie Mobley at defensive tackle, while Dominique Austin — a fifth-year senior who spent last season on the practice squad — appears to be the team’s best defensive end.
• Shaquille Richardson and Derrick Rainey were listed as first-teamers at cornerback, ahead of the rehabbing Jonathan McKnight. Jourdon Grandon and Jared Tevis occupy both safety spots, for now, while senior Mark Watley failed to make the two-deep.
Of course, depth charts rarely hold on game day — especially with a team like Arizona, which is trying to identify playmakers on both sides of the ball.
Rodriguez mentioned nine different offensive starters not on the two-deep who, he said, should play in the opener.
It’s “a pretty good bet” that the Wildcats will play eight or more offensive linemen, the coach said.
Things might be more certain on defense, but that’s only because the UA seemingly has less depth to pull from.
“There’s going to be more than 22 guys who have to play,” he said.