Arizona Wildcats football practice

Trevor Wood, left, continues to get work at defensive end for Arizona in advance of the Dec. 27 Foster Farms Bowl vs. Purdue. 

Notes and takeaways from the Arizona Wildcats’ media availability Thursday afternoon as the team continued to prepare for the Dec. 27 Foster Farms Bowl against Purdue:

* Redshirt junior Trevor Wood, who played defensive end because of injuries against Arizona State, continues to practice there and had an interception today. Wood has been a tight end for most of his UA career. He played both positions as a freshman. He gives the line size at 6-6, 265.

* Freshman Kylan Wilborn, who started at end vs. ASU, is back to his usual DE-LB "Stud" spot. The hope is that starting end Justin Belknap (knee) will be back for the Foster Farms Bowl after missing the final 1½ games.

* Linebacker Colin Schooler on being named Pac-12 Defensive Freshman of the Year: "It just shows how well we did as a team. There’s so many moving parts on a defense, you can’t really give all credit to one player. I’m just happy that my defense and I got that award."

* Arizona expects to hear back from the NCAA within a week or so regarding the appeals by tackle Layth Friekh and receiver Shawn Poindexter to gain an additional year of eligibility.

* Tackle Tshiyombu Lukusa, the transfer from Michigan State, isn't practicing right now because of injury and can't accompany the team to California. But Rodriguez has high hopes for him. "He’s paid his own way this semester,” Rodriguez said. “He did a great job on the scout team. He’s got a chance to compete for a job. He’s really athletic"

* Rodriguez on all the coaching changes in the Pac-12: "I’m not totally surprised by it. I think that’s the world that we live in now. But I just worry about mowing our own grass right now."

* Rodriguez on Willie Taggart leaving Oregon for Florida State after just one season: "I think you’re surprised anytime anybody leaves after a year. But also, you’ve gotta understand, he’s from Florida. That’s a top-five job. I’ve known Jimbo (Fisher) since high school. I’ve been down there many times. I know what kind of place that is. But Oregon is a special place too with their facilities and what Phil Knight has done for them. They’ll get a good coach.”

* Rodriguez deemed it "ironic" that several players de-committed from Arizona and signed with Oregon, only to lose their coach less than a year later.

* If a coach leaves, are those recruits fair game? "If they reach out to us,” Rodriguez said, “and they’re guys we’ve recruited and know about and have room for, we’ll recruit them." He said "a couple" have done so recently.

* Senior defensive tackle Parker Zellers on missing the Oregon game for disciplinary reasons: "Poor decision-making off the field. I feel like I let the team down. You live and you learn. Move on from it, learn from it and become a better person from it."

Brian Knorr, who coaches the edge rushers, is looking to see what young players such as Jose Ramirez, Francisco Nelson and My-King Johnson can do during bowl practices. "I've challenged all of them,” Knorr said. “Who can make the most progress?" Another youngster, freshman Jalen Harris, remains limited because of a shoulder injury.

* Defensive line coach Vince Amey on defensive tackle Dereck Boles playing through injuries: "It means the world to me and his teammates. He battles. I’m happy to have him for another year."

* Punting has been a major problem for Arizona lately. That unit has been working on the most basic fundamentals of snapping and catching the ball. Jake Glatting is likely to punt in the Foster Farms Bowl. Matt Aragon also is getting reps there.

* Arizona began implementing its game plan for Purdue. Rodriguez is impressed with the Boilermakers' defense, in particular its size up front. Purdue's D-line includes 325-pound sophomore Lorenzo Neal, son of the former NFL player of the same name.

* Arizona is working in pads every other day. Rodriguez said the younger players will have a scrimmage sometime over the next week or so and that the upperclassmen will serve as coaches "so they can feel my grief."


Michael is an award-winning journalist who has been covering sports professionally since the early '90s. He started at the Star in 2015 after spending 15 years at The Orange County Register. Michael is a graduate of Northwestern University.