When the Arizona Wildcats are at their highest, Rich Rodriguez can often be at his angriest.
In other words, don’t be shocked if “mad RichRod” makes an appearance this week.
Following Arizona’s 38-31 loss to USC earlier this month, the coach loosened up and made sure a couple of the UA’s next practices were fun and productive. The team’s psyche was fragile following two losses, and Rodriguez wanted to make sure the Wildcats were still having fun.
But there was no time this season the second-year coach was more agitated than after the UA’s 35-0 win over NAU in its opener. In the Tuesday practice following that win, Rodriguez was annoyed, mad and frustrated with his bunch, thinking their heads were getting too big.
He didn’t let any players conduct post-practice interviews —the only time this season that’s happened — and even made himself off limits.
So, following a big 35-24 win over Utah and a Colorado team that’s 3-18 in Pac-12 play the last two-plus years looming Saturday, Rodriguez’s letdown meter will be on high alert this week in practice.
“I’m only with them a couple hours a day, but they’re out and about in the community and on campus a lot more time than that, and I’m sure they hear things about, ‘Oh, what a great win,’ and, ‘Now you can do this and that,’” Rodriguez said Monday at his weekly news conference.
“Confidence is OK. But there’s a difference between confidence and cockiness. We have a lot of ways to keep them humble. That’s the way we do things.”
It would be easy to overlook the Buffaloes. CU is giving up 36 points per game, letting opponents gain 443 yards a game and has been outscored 155-46 in three Pac-12 games this season.
Oh, and the UA hung 56 points on the Buffs last season.
But Rodriguez and his players swear they won’t let off the gas pedal this week.
“They’re a much improved team from last year, so we’re not thinking about how we had a big day last year,” junior offensive tackle Mickey Baucus said. “We’re thinking about what we have to do to get ourselves better and what we have to do to have another big day this year.”
Rodriguez said the message to his team when it meets for practice this afternoon will be simple and to the point.
“We’re just halfway through now, and there’s a whole lot at stake,” Rodriguez said. “I said it last year to them, too, ‘The more you win; the more is at stake. You have to stay humble and you have to stay hungry.’ I’ll say that and preach that to the team.”
Bondurant, Tevis hurting
Rodriguez said Monday that junior safeties Tra’Mayne Bondurant and Jared Tevis are questionable for Saturday’s game at Colorado.
Bondurant suffered a concussion against Utah and is day-to-day. Tevis, who has 36 tackles and a sack in five games, hurt his knee against USC and missed the game against the Utes.
Rodriguez said Tevis didn’t participate in practice Sunday and is uncertain if he will today.
Bondurant, who has 29 tackles and three interceptions, hasn’t been cleared for contact after suffering his concussion.
Will Parks started for Tevis, and sophomore Anthony Lopez filled in for Bondurant.
“They both did pretty solid,” Rodriguez said of Parks and Lopez. “They were a little nervous at first, particularly Anthony when he got in there. He wound up playing a solid game and Will Parks the same thing. Tra’Mayne and Jared Tevis are two of our best football players, period. Not just defensive players. They have the ability to make plays, so we hope we can get them back.”
OT Friekh commits to UA
The UA landed its third commitment in three days Monday morning when Peoria Centennial offensive tackle Layth Friekh gave a verbal commitment.
It came one day after two-star tackle Levi Walton of Cape Coral, Fla., pledged to the UA and two days after Salpointe Catholic wide receiver Kaelin Deboskie committed to Arizona.
Friekh, rated as a three-star prospect by Scout and Rivals and a four-star by 247sports.com, chose Arizona over offers from Washington, Oregon, Nebraska and others.
“I just felt like it was the best fit for me and my family,” Friekh said. “U of A has always been the leader the whole way. Once I went on my official, I knew I wanted to be there.”
The tackle is rated as the state’s 14th best prospect by Rivals. The UA has commitments from five of the top 19 players on that list: Friekh, Salpointe receiver Cameron Denson, Scottsdale Chaparral tight end Trevor Wood, Chandler safety J.R. Hunt and Deboskie.
Friekh officially visited Arizona on Saturday and saw the Wildcats pull off a 35-24 win.
Minutes after that game, Deboskie gave a verbal commitment to the Wildcats. Walton committed Sunday morning while at breakfast with the staff.
Friekh and Walton are the first two offensive tackles to commit to UA for 2014. Scount rates Friekh as the 46th best OT in the country.
Overall, Arizona now has 27 commitments for the 2014 class.
• Arizona’s game at Cal on Nov. 2 will kickoff at 12:30 p.m. It’s the earliest start time this season for the Wildcats. The game will be televised by Pac-12 Arizona.
• The Wildcats and Golden Bears haven’t played since 2010, when the UA won 10-9. The game will mark Arizona’s first trip to Berkeley since 2009.