Before his first-ever practice as an Arizona Wildcat last year, receiver Nate Phillips got some last-minute advice from veteran wideout Terrence Miller.
“Terrance told me ‘if you make it to popsicle time, you’ll be fine,’” Phillips said. “Thankfully, I made it.”
Now it’s Phillips’ turn to pass on the sage advice to other UA players. And he’s happy to do it.
The Wildcats, who reported for camp Friday, will hit the practice field tonight at 5:30 for the official on-field beginning of fall camp. The session, like all Rich Rodriguez-led practices will be fast and hectic with a lot of yelling, swearing and teaching.
Oh, and it will feature a Rodriguez staple — a mid-practice popsicle break, where everyone gets a chance to catch their breath.
Make it to that point and you’re golden.
“Tomorrow is going to be a shock (for the freshmen) with how quickly we go through practice and how quickly practice moves,” Phillips said Friday. “We’re full-go the entire camp. From the first practice to the last one, it’s one speed. I didn’t know what to expect last year. I didn’t know what the grind was going to be.”
The grind, as Phillips calls it, will be a busy one. Arizona will practice 23 times in 22 days leading up to the week of its season opener against UNLV. Mixed around the practices will be film sessions, position meetings, weight room workouts and trips to the trainer.
“This is when we come together as a family,” safety Will Parks said. “This is when we just put our heads down and work hard and come together as a team. That’s probably the best part of camp, just coming together as that family.”
Of course, the next three-plus weeks aren’t just about bonding and improving team chemistry. The Wildcats need to evaluate what they have and make sure they’re “getting better every practice and not standing still” as Rodriguez often says.
It’s also a time to finally start answering some questions. And you already know the first one: Who’s the quarterback going to be?
We still probably won’t know until the last few days before the UNLV game, but the answer will start to become clearer beginning today.
Connor Brewer, Jerrard Randall, Jesse Scroggins and Anu Solomon all reported to camp Friday and will begin their QB competition today.
And yes, it’s still wide open.
“We want to know who it is, but at the end of the day, all of them are good,” Phillips said. “If they weren’t good, they wouldn’t be here. Our biggest thing is just to get chemistry with whoever it is.
“At the time when Coach Rodriguez announces who our starter is going to be, that’s going to be our guy.”
There are plenty of other questions to be examined over the next week.
- Will DaVonte’ Neal and T.J. Johnson really be six- to eight-carry-a-game players?
- Who fills in for Chris Putton on the offensive line?
- What about on the other side; who’s Tevin Hood’s replacement at nose tackle?
- What about linebacker? Who plays next to Scooby Wright?
- Is former Salpointe Catholic star Cam Denson really ready to start at cornerback?
- Who’s the kicker?
The list could continue for several more lines. But enough with the questions — it’s time for answers.
“I think we’re all ready to get this thing started and get out there,” Wright said. “We have set an identity this fall and now it’s time to say ‘this is Arizona football’ and try to establish ourselves as a unit.
“It’s night and day from last year, so it should be a totally different camp experience.”
Except, of course, for the popsicles.
- Arizona received a commitment from Canadian offensive lineman Harper Sherman on Friday.
Sherman, listed at 6 feet 4 inches and 265 pounds, is from New Westminster, British Columbia. He’s rated as a three-star prospect by the Scout.com recruiting service.
He chose Arizona over offers from Cal, Oregon State, Washington State, San Diego State and others.
Sherman was in Tucson on Friday for an unofficial visit and committed while in town.
He’s the 20th known commitment for 2015 and fourth offensive line prospect.
Arizona has received 14 of its 20 commitments since June 1.
- Also in town on Friday was five-star linebacker John Houston. The 6-2, 208-pound linebacker from Gardena, California, posted a picture on his Twitter account of him wearing an Arizona jersey and posing on the field at Arizona Stadium.
The inside linebacker recently said there were 13 schools he was seriously considering, and Arizona was one. He is scheduled to visit Arizona State today.