Arizona Football

UA football: Dearth of DB depth has Cats concerned

2014-05-01T00:00:00Z 2014-05-01T22:36:39Z UA football: Dearth of DB depth has Cats concernedBy Daniel Berk Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Five months ago today, five-star cornerback Jalen Tabor went on national TV and announced his pledge to the Arizona Wildcats.

It was, at the time, program-changing news: Four-star prospect Naijiel Hale had likewise committed, meaning the Wildcats suddenly seemed loaded at that position.

Those two joined three-star recruits Rodney Carr, Kwesi Mashack and Jace Whittaker. Combine all of them with returning starter Jonathan McKnight, former four-star recruit Derek Babiash, Devin Holiday and incoming junior college recruit Patrick Glover, and it was hard to imagine how everyone would get snaps.

Ah, those were the golden days.

Seven days after his pledge, Tabor, who was scheduled to enroll in January, de-committed. Hale did the same a couple of weeks later, and Babiash left the program last month.

That leaves Arizona with just four scholarship cornerbacks on the roster. Carr, Mashack and Whittaker are all still due to be here in the summer, but after McKnight, there isn’t much experience at cornerback for Rich Rodriguez and the Wildcats.

“We’re obviously not very deep there,” Rodriguez said Thursday during the Pac-12 coaches’ conference call.

So what’s the answer?

The Wildcats may ask some of their safeties to double-dip. Rodriguez said Thursday that free safety Jamar Allah could see some time at cornerback, as could Jourdon Grandon.

One player that won’t move to cornerback is Will Parks.

The Defensive Most Valuable Player of the AdvoCare V100 Bowl is stuck behind Jared Tevis at the bandit safety spot. But Rodriguez said he has no plans to move Parks, whom he considers a “co-starter” with Tevis.

The coach also reiterated that a couple of receivers — notably DaVonte Neal and incoming freshman Cameron Denson — could see time at cornerback, too.

“I’m worried about the lack of depth everywhere other than receiver,” Rodriguez said. “I’m not sure we’re deep at any position, and certainly cornerback is no exception.”

No change with the QBs

Rodriguez gave his standard answer Thursday when asked about the quarterback position.

The coach said there still isn’t a favorite and, after watching film from spring practices and the spring game, there wasn’t a whole lot of separation among the main candidates.

“There wasn’t as much as we would have hoped,” Rodriguez said. “That’s not a disappointing thing, that’s just what it is. We do have the talent there, but we can’t rep eight or nine guys in the fall. We’ll rep four or five the first few weeks and then pare it down.

“It will be a full-fledged competition.”

Haden update

Running back Jonathan Haden, who enrolled at the UA in January, still hasn’t been cleared by the NCAA.

Haden, a three-star recruit from Washington, D.C., missed the entire spring because of a clearinghouse issue with a specific class at Haden’s high school. Rodriguez said he was annoyed by the process because a player on Haden’s high school team (thought to be Tabor) was cleared at Florida and participated in spring ball, but Haden wasn’t.

Haden will take the class again this summer at the UA to ensure he’s eligible when fall camp starts.

“It was frustrating seeing someone from the same school, with the same class, was eligible for spring practice and (Haden) wasn’t,” Rodriguez said.

Extra points

  • Rodriguez and his staff will be permitted to work with their players in the film room for two hours a week during the summer, thanks to a new rule that was passed by the NCAA during the 2013 season.

Rodriguez was asked how beneficial that extra time would be this summer as the Wildcats prepare for the fall.

“It’s a huge change,” Rodriguez said. “It will be very beneficial for the younger guys. We’ll get to see where they are at mentally throughout the summer. From a physical standpoint, they will still have to put in their time in the weight room and work extremely hard.”

  • Several coaches, including Rodriguez, voiced their opinions on the SEC not playing nine conference games like other major conferences.

Stanford’s David Shaw took exception to the lack of change, while Rodriguez didn’t seem as bothered by it and, in fact, had some fun with it.

“I’m not worried about that,” Rodriguez said. “Hell, I’m just trying to get a first down right now.”

Contact reporter Daniel Berk at

dberk@aztarnet.com or 573-4330. On Twitter @DSBerk.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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