Jesse Scroggins has no idea if he’ll be the starting quarterback when the Arizona Wildcats open their season Aug. 29 at home against UNLV.
Heck, he doesn’t even know if he’ll get the first snap this Saturday during the UA’s spring game.
But a year after his coaches weren’t so sure, Scroggins has made one thing known this spring — he wants the job.
Scroggins and the Wildcats will hold their final spring practice this afternoon, and the 6-foot-3-inch, 208-pound quarterback has survived the UA football version of “hell week.”
“I think they’re harder on me because I didn’t push myself to my full potential last year,” Scroggins said. “But I’m not really focused on last year anymore. Last year is last year. It’s been talked about. It’s been written about. Now I’m just concentrating on being me and doing the best I can.”
With 14 practices down, he has certainly put himself back in the QB race, using his head, emotion, arm and even legs to impress coaches.
Highly touted out of high school, signs with USC, flames out there, spends a year at a junior college, transfers to Arizona and then struggles to keep up with coach Rich Rodriguez’s demanding style in Year 1.
The end of the story is still to be written.
“I think he’s taking it more serious than he ever has, and it shows,” UA quarterbacks coach Rod Smith said. “He still has some things we need to get cleaned up and corrected. But at least Jesse is making a push now. He’s not there yet, but he’s making a push. We’re pleased with how he has gotten better.”
In an open scrimmage last week, Scroggins was one of the main offensive standouts. He worked with the first and second teams and made plays regardless of who was lining up in front of him.
The Lakewood, Calif., native is a pass-first quarterback but showed his ability to make some plays with his feet during the scrimmage, too. But maybe more important than any of that, Scroggins showed some of the intangibles the coaching staff has been looking for in a quarterback.
After good and bad throws, Scroggins was the first to greet his receivers, showing plenty of energy, clapping, jumping up and down and giving high-fives to anyone nearby.
“He’s a hyper-type kid with a very infectious attitude,” Smith said. “I tell him all the time that he has the ability to lead a lot of people if he wants to. He can lead them the right way or the wrong way.
“He’s taken the right approach this spring.”
For Scroggins to even be in the conversation for the starting spot, the right approach was necessary this spring.
“Once I start feeling comfortable with my teammates and everything starts coming together, it’s time to have fun,” Scroggins said. “We have to play with a certain energy and tempo on offense, and it all starts with the quarterback.
“I’m just trying to announce my energy and have everyone feed off it.”
It’s also easier for Scroggins to be more energetic on the field these days because he grasps more aspects of the offense.
He dedicated himself to the film room in January and February to get to the level Rodriguez requires for his quarterbacks. A year after watching B.J. Denker win the job in large part to his knowledge and understanding of Rodriguez’s offense, Scroggins understands now that’s a must.
“I’ve taken it to the next level,” Scroggins said. “Last year I understood the plays, now I understand the tendencies of everyone.
“You have to understand what everyone is doing and where everyone is going to be to take it to the next level, and I’m working on that.”
Like any quarterback, Scroggins still has his moments. He made Smith cringe earlier this week in practice when he threw an interception in a red zone drill and can still force a throw or two when it’s not there.
But those moments are happening less and less.
“You have to know good placement and when to throw the ball away and when not to,” Smith said. “It’s still a work in progress. But Jesse has a lot of arm talent, he has a lot of physical skills. He just has to get the mental part down and all the intangibles down with it. I think we’re starting to see that.”
Rodriguez added: “Jesse has gotten better. He was lost quite a bit in his first year, like most first-year quarterbacks are. But he’s really taken it to heart and played pretty well.
“Sometimes Jesse will see something, and you’ll see the smoke coming out of his ears, but he’s making more plays and has made great progress this spring.”