Linebacker Jake Fischer goes through some drills at the first spring practice for the University of Arizona football team under the direction of new head coach Rich Rodriguez on Monday.

A.E. Araiza/Arizona Daily Star

The Arizona Wildcats are officially on spring break. Over the next few days, the UA football players will scatter to vacation hot spots for a week off.

Well, most of them.

"I'm staying in town for spring break," linebacker Jake Fischer said, "so I'll be watching a lot of film."

No player on the UA roster has distinguished himself more over the last three months than Fischer, the Wildcats' projected starter at outside linebacker. And it's not just because of his vacation plans.

"If you ask anybody on the team (who's a) tough dude, they're going to say it's Jake Fischer," fellow linebacker Brian Wagner said. "Right now, I'd say he's the leader of the defense. He knows exactly what he's doing, and he sets a great example."

Said first-year coach Rich Rodriguez: "It's his mentality. Jake's a guy that loves football."

Football was taken away from him a year ago. Fischer tore the ACL in his right knee during last year's spring game, an injury that forced him to miss the entire 2011 season. As he rehabbed, Fischer - an Ironwood Ridge graduate - watched as the Wildcats fired coach Mike Stoops, stumbled to a 4-8 finish and hired Rodriguez.

The 5-foot-11-inch, 215-pound Fischer figures to be a major part of the Wildcats' defense as a junior this fall. Arizona finished 67th nationally in rushing defense, 119th in pass defense and 110th in total defense a year ago.

The Star talked to Fischer, 21, about his knee and his role in the Wildcats' new 3-3-5 defense. Here's what he said:

Is it good to be back?

"It feels like it's been a very long time. I'm just excited to get out there again."

Your teammates have talked about the fast pace of practices. What's it like?

"It was what we expected. We were running (Monday) more than we had. It felt like we were conditioning for Oregon at the end. It was a lot faster pace, and it was like that the whole practice. We're going to get used to it. … They gave us fair warning that practice was going to be up-tempo. I actually like it a lot. You have to compete on every play. It's a challenge - you're not even set (defensively) and they're already snapping the ball. I'm tired, but I like it."

How's your knee?

"One hundred percent."

Since when?

"Probably a month ago. As soon as the new strength coaches came in and I started lifting and everything, I realized that it was just about completely healed."

What's your role in the new defense?

"They haven't really put together a depth chart of who's at what position. I'm going to try to be a leader, especially being one of the upperclassmen. I'm going to get the young guys in there to watch film and everything. We're going to be in there watching film every day."

Was it hard to watch from the sidelines last season? Things sort of fell apart.

"It sucked. For me, Adam (Hall), Greg (Nwoko), Willie (Mobley), Jon (McKnight), all those guys, it was hard sitting on the sidelines and not being able to go in and help. We had a lot of guys on defense that would have been starting or playing significant roles get injured, but the young guys really stepped it up. They did a lot better than I expected."

Would the 2011 season have gone differently had everybody been healthy?

"You can say that, but that's in the past. We're focused on this season. We've put that behind us."

Washington charged with trespassing following fight

A fifth Arizona Wildcats football player has been charged for his role in a house-party brawl last weekend.

Defensive tackle Justin Washington is facing first-degree criminal trespass charges. No court date has been set.

Tucson Police Department reports initially listed Washington, 20, as being arrested but not charged, but city court records show that he is facing one charge of trespassing.

Defensive back Jourdon Grandon and offensive tackle Fabbians Ebbele were charged with first-degree criminal trespassing and assault following a pair of fights at a campus-area house party shortly after midnight Friday. Safety Jared Tevis and guard Eric Bender-Ramsay were charged with trespassing, and former UA safety Josh Robbins was booked on assault and trespassing charges and suspicion of DUI.

Grandon and Ebbele were held out of Wednesday's football practice, and their futures in the program remain unclear. Washington, Tevis and Bender-Ramsay, the three players charged with trespassing, will continue to practice.

Washington enjoyed a breakout 2010 season as a freshman, registering 46 tackles, but injury and inconsistency led to a sophomore slump. The Cypress, Texas, product was one of a half-dozen Wildcats featured on San Antonio billboards when Arizona played in the 2010 Alamo Bowl.