Shortly after last season, Jesse Scroggins requested a number change. No. 1 didn’t make much sense anymore.
Of course, when the Lakewood, Calif., native came to Arizona in December 2012, the number worked.
Rated as the sixth-best quarterback in the country coming out of high school in 2010 by the Scout.com recruiting service, Scroggins did what most great prep quarterbacks in Southern California do — signed with USC. He redshirted in 2010 and served as one of Matt Barkley’s backups in 2011.
He then hit the reset button and headed to El Camino Community College. Following a season there, where he put up decent numbers, throwing for 1,148 yards and eight touchdowns, he was highly sought by Division I programs.
He committed to Rich Rodriguez and Arizona, and with Matt Scott’s eligibility exhausted, Scroggins seemed to be the natural choice for No. 1.
Instead, he missed most of spring drills last year recovering from offseason foot surgery, battled a concussion in the early part of fall practice and had a difficult time adjusting to Rodriguez’s offense and coaching style.
The result was B.J. Denker beating out Scroggins for the starting job.
Scroggins fell so far out of favor that he wasn’t even the No. 2 quarterback; that belonged to Javelle Allen. The signal-caller faced a minor discipline issue and didn’t dress for a home game against UTSA and then was left off the travel roster for a road game at Washington.
He wasn’t fooling anyone with that No. 1 on his chest. He even considered turning in the jersey altogether and walking away from football.
“Of course you have those thoughts; you’re human,” Scroggins said. “You have emotions, but it’s the people around you that keep you sane, that keep you here and keep you OK. My teammates, my coaches, they kept me sane.”
So the quarterback didn’t turn in the jersey; he just changed the number. Scroggins went back to No. 15, the number he wore in Pop Warner, high school, USC and El Camino.
“That’s the old me,” Scroggins said. “I never switched my number until I got here. It’s good to have it back.”
Now the Wildcats are hopeful Scroggins can regain some of his old form with his old number. Through one week of spring drills, Scroggins has been one of the more impressive quarterbacks.
The forgotten man in the quarterback race featuring Anu Solomon, Connor Brewer, Jerrard Randall and others, Scroggins is seeing if he can save his best for last.
“This is my absolute last chance and I’m going to give it everything I got,” he said. “I feel like I’ve matured as a man, as a player and a teammate.”
Scroggins spent much of his offseason in the weight room, working to redefine his body to handle Rodriguez’s up-tempo offense better. He’s been in the film room and has worked with the UA’s wide receivers on his own time.
In other words, he’s doing the things he wasn’t doing when he first arrived in Tucson.
“The biggest thing with Jesse is just being comfortable calling plays and knowing where his eyes are at,” Rodriguez said. “He’s still going to get lost a little bit, but I can see he has gotten better.”
Not only is Scroggins in better shape and more understanding of the offense, he’s also clearer about Rodriguez’s expectations.
“Coach doesn’t want any guys that feel entitled,” Scroggins said. “Even if you’re a three-year starter, you still have to be a team guy. The biggest thing I’ve learned about since I’ve been here is team chemistry.”
And perhaps most importantly for Scroggins, he’s fully healthy. His foot is fine, he hasn’t had any concussion symptoms since the fall and no other nagging injuries are in his way.
“It’s day and night, health-wise,” Scroggins said. “Me being as healthy as I am right now, it feels like everything is in place for me. I just have to keep competing. My main goal is to stay healthy and just give myself a chance.”