Anu Solomon has a pretty simple strategy this training camp: Retain the message, ignore the tone.
That’s what goes through the head of the UA’s redshirt freshman quarterback when he makes a mistake in practice.
Coach Rich Rodriguez likes to be hard on his quarterbacks. The volume isn’t important, Solomon said; the teaching is.
“I take the message, but I don’t take the yelling,” Solomon said. “The yelling goes in one ear and out the other. But the message, I stick with it. I know I have to get better.
“I make a bad pass, I’m like ‘oh man’ in my head, and then I look behind, and I can see him, and he’s already mad.”
As the Las Vegas native makes his push to be Arizona’s starting quarterback this season, he knows mistakes are inevitable. He also knows how he responds to them will go a long way in deciding if he takes the first snap against UNLV on Aug. 29.
Rodriguez has made it no secret that he goes out of his way to make life difficult on his quarterbacks in practice. If they fold from his tirades, how will they hold up in front of 40,000 people?
“I’ve said it before: We try to put more pressure on them in practice, so the games seem even easier,” Rodriguez said of the way he coaches his quarterbacks. “In the game, it’s all on them. We try to make them feel a sense of urgency and intensity in practice. Will they melt when someone gets on them, or will they respond? I’ve always done it that way.
“When they get to the games, I think they’re just happy I’m 40 yards away.”
Solomon hopes he’s 40 yards away from Rodriguez during games this season and not next to him on the sideline with a headset on. The quarterback came into training camp knowing it was going to be a four-man race for the job — Solomon, Jesse Scroggins, Jerrard Randall and Connor Brewer.
Through the midway point of camp, Solomon seems to be in the lead, but the job has hardly been handed to him.
“They’re all good,” Solomon said of the other quarterbacks. “I’m competing against them. They’re all great guys, great players. While we’re competing against each other, we’re just making ourselves better as well.”
Solomon, who said the greatest benefit of his redshirt season was getting mentally prepared for the competition, feels like a different quarterback than he was last season.
- Taking Rodriguez’s coaching better.
- Being more assertive with his teammates.
- Showing he’s more comfortable with the UA offense.
- Playing with cleaner fundamentals.
- Moving around faster and more athletically.
“Everyone is looking up to you at the quarterback position,” Solomon said. “Confidence plays a huge role right now. Everyone’s getting worried right now, so you just have to stay calm and do what you do.”
Solomon said his two biggest focuses this offseason were his “reads and speed.” The quarterback wanted to always know where he was going with the football, and read defenses correctly. He also wanted to increase his speed to fully be able to run Rodriguez’s up-tempo spread offense.
“I did some extra work with the strength guys,” Solomon said. “They did a good job getting me faster and built for this team. Obviously I needed to get bigger and stronger.
“And I wanted to get a hold of the offense and make sure I’m seeing everything.”
Another point of emphasis for Solomon in the summer months was “flipping the switch.”
Known as a laid-back, mellow guy by his teammates and coaches, Solomon knew it was necessary to show his counterparts that he can get fired up and take control of a team.
“I can see myself, and I’m like, ‘Dang, I should have been more assertive and in control, and not being laid back,’ ” Solomon said. “Sometimes I see myself being laid back, and I’m like, ‘Come on Anu, step it up. Let’s go.’ ”
Rodriguez knows Solomon will never be the loudest guy in the locker room. And that’s OK. The coach just needs to see the proper amount of fire about him, and he is starting to see that.
“You don’t have to be a rah-rah, get-in-your-face guy to be a competitor,” Rodriguez said. “I want him to be a little more assertive with his own intensity at times. That’s a work in progress.”
As is Solomon’s game as a whole.
“Obviously I still have a lot to learn,” Solomon said. “But I’m putting in the work to get to where I want to be.”