FOOTBALL

UA football: Getting a grip on the task ahead

New coach Rodriguez, Wildcats open spring with plenty to learn
2012-03-02T00:01:00Z 2014-09-15T10:26:13Z UA football: Getting a grip on the task aheadRyan Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
March 02, 2012 12:01 am  • 

In 13 weeks as the Arizona Wildcats' new football coach/figurehead/savior, Rich Rodriguez has hired a small army of assistants, broken ground on a new football complex and signed a full recruiting class.

Still, Rodriguez admits, his work has barely begun.

"There are a lot more questions then there are answers at this point," he said.

Arizona will open the Rodriguez era Monday with its first spring practice. Over the next 34 days, the Wildcats will receive a crash course in the spread-option offense, 3-3-5 "odd stack" defense and Rodriguez's unique special teams philosophy.

Minor details, like where they're going to practice, can wait.

The UA will scrimmage in both Phoenix and Tucson, Rodriguez said Thursday, though the locations won't be released until after contracts with the sites are finalized. Weekday practices will be held on campus.

The team will play March 24 in Phoenix's West Valley. The UA's annual spring game will be held April 14 "somewhere in Tucson," Rodriguez said.

Athletic director Greg Byrne said Thursday that both contracts should be signed "probably pretty quickly." Arizona Stadium is under construction, and unavailable for use.

Not that Rodriguez necessarily minds. Of the 1,000 question marks, facilities are rather minor.

"This spring," he said, "is going to be maybe a little different from our future springs."

Goal: Keep Scott safe

Quarterback Matt Scott will likely wear a "hands-off" jersey when spring drills open Monday.

It makes sense: Scott is the only scholarship quarterback on the roster, and the only player to take a college snap at the position.

"Normally, I wouldn't do it - but because Matt's the only one with experience, we'll probable debate it, if he's going to be more limited," Rodriguez said.

Still, Rodriguez said, "at some point, I've got to see Matt."

Wide-receiver-turned-quarterback Richard Morrison will back Scott up during the spring, with walk-ons Tyler D'Amore and Alex Cappellini competing for the No. 3 spot.

Rodriguez said he expects incoming freshmen Javelle Allen and Josh Kern to push Scott once they enroll this summer.

Cats lose three

Defensive linemen Sani Fuimaono and Aiulua Fanene have left the program to take their Mormon missions.

Fuimaono announced last fall that he would be leaving school to serve his church. The decision by Fanene, nicknamed "Fish," comes as a bit of a surprise. Fanene had eight tackles, 1 1/2 for loss, as a redshirt freshman in 2011. Fuimaono registered seven tackles, one for loss, as a true freshman.

Missions typically last two years, meaning both players would be eligible to rejoin the program in 2014.

Additionally, linebacker Rolly Escarcega has left the team. The Catalina Foothills grad spent last season on the practice squad. 

Baucus boys limited, Fischer and Hall OK

Left tackle Mickey Baucus will be held out of full-contact drills as he recovers from back surgery, and his brother, H-back Jack Baucus, will be limited as he works his way back from a knee procedure.

However, the injury news isn't all bad: Linebacker Jake Fischer, safety Adam Hall, defensive tackle Willie Mobley and running back Greg Nwoko have all been cleared for full contact, Rodriguez said. The foursome missed the 2011 season with knee injuries. Cornerback Jonathan McKnight (knee surgery) will practice but may not scrimmage.

Mickey Baucus had what Rodriguez described as "a disc problem" following the 2011 season, one in which he started all 12 games at the offensive line's most important position.

"We could have waited until after the spring, but we wanted to get it done," he said. "Mickey will be limited this spring, but will be better by August."

Extra points

• Rodriguez repeatedly referred to Arizona Stadium's north end zone project as "The Lowell-Stevens Football Facility," though the name is still subject to university approval.

The $72 million construction project is named after its two largest benefactors: Jeff and Sharon Stevens gave $12 million to the project, while David and Edith Lowell contributed $11 million.

• The Wildcats' uniforms will stay the same this fall, though Rodriguez said he's open to tweaks starting in 2013.

"Our color scheme won't change and the 'block A' is going to stay the 'block A,'" Rodriguez said. "I'm wide open and looking forward to (tweaks); we've got some great colors."

Key dates

• Monday: First spring practice

• Thursday: Team leaves for spring break

• March 19: Pro day for draft-eligible seniors

• March 21: Practices resume

• March 24: Open scrimmage in Phoenix, noon (location to be announced)

• April 14: Spring game in Tucson, 1 p.m. (location to be announced)

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