UA football: Cupboard not bare for Rodriguez

2011-11-28T00:00:00Z 2014-07-08T15:42:53Z UA football: Cupboard not bare for RodriguezPatrick Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
November 28, 2011 12:00 am  • 

Rich Rodriguez was a little busy Saturday, schmoozing boosters and introducing himself to the Arizona Wildcats fan base.

The new football coach wanted to watch the UA's 45-37 win against Louisiana-Lafayette but said it was "hard" to, given his other responsibilities.

Instead, he'll spend the next few months watching film about the team he inherits from interim boss Tim Kish.

"I think the spring practice will tell me, more than anything else, once I get in there and see how quickly they learn," he said. "As I told the team very briefly the other day, transition's hard. It's very difficult.

"But the sooner they buy in, the sooner they understand that change is here - and I hope everyone embraces it - the better off they'll be."

With Arizona (4-8, 2-7 Pac-12) winning its last two games, here's what Rodriguez has to look forward to next season:

1. QB Matt Scott

Despite wanting to enter the Arizona State game, the redshirt senior managed to sit the entire season, preserving his final season of eligibility for Rodriguez's first year on campus.

"Matt Scott coming in now and taking the reins as a quality quarterback here for at least the next year, I think he's a talent in his own right," Kish said. "I'm excited about him."

2. A more experienced O-line

The Wildcats started the season with only one offensive lineman, center Kyle Quinn, having game experience. And Quinn had started one game, ever.

The UA had the youngest line in the BCS and was the only major school to start more than one redshirt freshman.

Mickey Baucus, Chris Putton, Trace Biskin, Fabbians Ebbele and Quinn have developed since then, and could one day be the monstrous unit coach Mike Stoops once predicted.

"This offensive line will just get better and better," Kish said.

3. Tough players

If adversity, as Kish said repeatedly, "introduces a man to himself," then the Wildcats certainly know what they can bring to next year's club.

"We went through some true adversity," senior wideout Juron Criner said. "We had a lot of walls in front of us - we ran into some and we jumped over some."

Bryson Beirne, who started his only career game at quarterback Saturday, said his teammates learned important lessons.

"The season is pretty much a reflection on how everyone's life will go," he said. "Everyone's life will have good times, everyone's life will have bad times.

"As long as you never give up, as long as you keep going forward, you'll be fine. We proved that."

Rodriguez noticed the players' positive attitude in a team meeting Tuesday.

"It was good; they weren't slumped down in their chair," he said. "Coach Kish and his staff should be commended."

4. Four defensive studs

It's easy to forget that, before Sept. 1, the Cats lost almost half the proven players on their defense.

Cornerback Jonathan McKnight, linebacker Jake Fischer, defensive tackle Willie Mobley and safety Adam Hall all tore knee ligaments before the season began, and figure to receive an extra year of eligibility.

Hall made a brief appearance, but the UA will apply for him to receive a medical redshirt.

"There's a bright future and a sturdy foundation here with the underclass," Kish said. "Getting those four guys healthy that couldn't go on defense this year, I think that will be certainly a positive note for that side of the ball."

AP top 25

With first-place votes in parentheses, records through Nov. 26 and previous ranking.

1. LSU (60) 12-0 1

2. Alabama 11-1 2

3. Oklahoma St. 10-1 5

4. Stanford 11-1 4

5. Virginia Tech 11-1 6

6. Arkansas 10-2 3

7. Houston 12-0 8

8. Oregon 10-2 9

9. Boise St. 10-1 7

9. USC 10-2 10

11. Michigan St. 10-2 11

12. Georgia 10-2 13

13. Oklahoma 9-2 12

14. South Carolina 10-2 14

15. Wisconsin 10-2 15

16. Kansas St. 9-2 16

17. Michigan 10-2 17

18. TCU 9-2 19

19. Baylor 8-3 21

20. Nebraska 9-3 22

21. Clemson 9-3 18

22. West Virginia 8-3 NR

23. Penn St. 9-3 20

24. Southern Miss. 10-2 NR

25. Florida St. 8-4 NR

Others receiving votes: Notre Dame 53, Texas 45, Cincinnati 23, Arkansas St. 18, Georgia Tech 16, BYU 13, Missouri 13, Virginia 9, Tulsa 7, Louisville 3, N. Illinois 1.

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