Rich Rodriguez says it all the time: He wants his players to be “comfortable being uncomfortable.”
It’s a phrase he’s used since his West Virginia days, and he reiterates it to his team on a near-daily basis.
“It’s part of everything we do,” Rodriguez said.
But the truth is, there isn’t a whole lot to be uncomfortable about during a redshirt season.
Redshirts know they won’t be suiting up on Saturdays. They’re able to stay back and get some down time when the rest of the team is on the road, and coaches are usually far harder on active players in practice.
Take quarterback Anu Solomon.
“He was chilling (last year),” Rodriguez said. “He knew he wasn’t going to play, and he was able to just kinda take it all in.”
That’s the nature of being a redshirt.
But the chill time is up for Solomon and UA’s other redshirts. It’s now their turn to be comfortable being uncomfortable and show they developed enough during their redshirt seasons to help the Wildcats this year.
Solomon is trying to win the starting job in training camp, and could be counted on to deliver this season. He spent a lot of time with the first-team offense during the first week of camp, and will try to hold onto that spot for the next three weeks.
“I think he’s more confident in what he’s doing,” Rodriguez said. “He still makes mistakes here and there, like you expect a redshirt freshman to do, but I think he’s really comfortable. He’s not making a whole lot of mental mistakes.”
He won’t be the only one who could have a major role this season after redshirting last year.
Here’s a look at three other redshirts that could see a lot of playing time this season.
Position: Offensive guard
- Why he redshirted: It’s not uncommon for true freshmen offensive linemen to redshirt and get their bodies in the right condition to compete in college. Alsadek wasn’t needed last season with plenty of depth on the line. Instead, he used the season to get in better shape by trimming body fat and adding muscle.
- Why we think he’ll play: Alsadek came to Arizona as a tackle, and that still may be his future position. But the Wildcats have a hole to fill at right guard and moved Alsadek — listed at 6 feet, 7 inches and 313 pounds — there in the spring. By the end, he was running with the first-team. That has carried over to training camp and Alsadek appears to be in line to be the starter this season at the spot Chris Putton vacated.
- Where he came from: Alsadek was a standout at Torrey Pines High in San Diego and was rated as a three-star recruit by Scout.com. He chose the UA over offers from Arizona State, Kansas State and Colorado.
- Quotable: “Football is really important to him. He’s probably one of the first guys in the building, and probably one of the last ones to leave. He studies, he works hard. He’s made himself a legitimate Division I football player. He obviously has great size and all that, but his work ethic and mentality is what got him to this point.” — Rodriguez
- Why he redshirted: A late addition to the 2013 recruiting class, McCall used last year to get more familiar with Jeff Casteel’s defense and get himself into shape. UA put him on the scout team, which pitted McCall against receivers like Nate Phillips, David Richards and Trey Griffey all season.
- Why we think he’ll play: Because the coaches love how he has started camp. If there’s been a defensive star of training camp, it’s McCall. If he ends up getting beat out by Cam Denson or another player for a starting spot, McCall will certainly get a look at nickel cornerback, and be a special teams contributor.
- Where he came from: McCall went to Armwood High in Tampa, Florida, and was a Sports Illustrated honorable mention All-American in 2011. He helped lead Armwood to a 15-0 season and a Class 6A state title during his senior year. He was also a sprinter on the track team.
- Quotable: “Jarvis looks a whole lot better than he did a year ago. Last year, getting him to line up right was a challenge.” — Rodriguez
Position: Wide receiver and returner
- Why he redshirted: A transfer from Notre Dame, Neal was forced to sit out last season per NCAA transfer rules. The UA petitioned to have him play right away, but it was denied and he had to sit out. Rodriguez referred to Neal last year several times as Arizona’s best scout team player.
- Why we think he’ll play:
- He’s too good not to. Neal hasn’t taken a second-team rep this training camp and has been exclusively with the first team at slot receiver. He’ll get some carries from the backfield as well. It’s also likely Neal will see time at kick and punt returner, and has been working as the team’s No. 1 holder for field goals and extra points.
- Where he came from: Neal played as a true freshman at Notre Dame, but didn’t have much production. He was in 13 games, but caught just one pass, had just one carry while returning 21 punts for 46 yards. Before Notre Dame, he was a star at Scottsdale Chaparral High, where he was the two-time Gatorade Player of the Year and a Parade All-American in 2011.
- “I have a mentality where if I have to show up, I might as well work hard. Don’t cheat yourself; treat yourself. That’s what I’ve been always been told. I just come out and go hard and hopefully the rest of the team sees that and does the same.”