University of Arizona vs Utah (copy)

Freshman safety Scottie Young Jr., right, could return for the Oregon game after sitting out vs. Oregon State.

Notes and takeaways from Arizona Wildcats coach Rich Rodriguez’s weekly Monday news conference at the Lowell-Stevens Football Facility:

* Rodriguez expects freshman safety Scottie Young Jr. to be available this week at Oregon after he sat out last week’s game vs. Oregon State. Young was not listed on the injury report but was limited in practice, Rodriguez said. He returned the previous week against USC after missing time because of a knee injury. Young dressed for the OSU game, spent part of it riding a stationary back and could have played if necessary, Rodriguez said.

* When a reporter suggested that QB Braxton Burmeister left Arizona at the alter twice, Rodriguez paused. “That’s an interesting way to phrase it,” he said. Arizona recruited Burmeister for most of his high school career, but he flipped to Oregon late in the process. He has been forced to play this year because of an injury to starter Justin Herbert, who could be back Saturday. I’ll have more on the QB situations for both teams later today.

* Rodriguez credited Rod Smith and B.J. Denker for fostering Khalil Tate’s development. Rodriguez said he and Smith have something of a good cop/bad cop routine going when it comes to coaching the quarterbacks. Rodriguez is typically the bad cop.

* Rodriguez knew his team would be better this season – especially if it stayed healthy – but wasn’t sure how much of an impact the freshmen could have. They have exceeded expectations, and Tate’s emergence has accelerated the rebuilding process.

* Speaking of the freshman class, Rodriguez said it’s the biggest and most impactful one he’s ever had. “I don’t know if I’ve ever had this many play this much and be this significant,” he said.

* Rodriguez likes the way Arizona’s top three tailbacks complement one another. J.J. Taylor is the “open-field guy,” Zach Green is the short-yardage specialist and Nick Wilson has both power and speed. All three are accomplished blockers as well.

* Rodriguez reiterated that he thought the first half Oregon State was the best Arizona had played all season, on both sides of the ball. The Wildcats led 28-0 at halftime.

* Rodriguez said Shawn Poindexter didn’t realize he couldn’t block a player out of bounds. Poindexter was penalized for that against Oregon State. The whistle had not yet blown on the play.

* Rodriguez was dumbfounded that center Nathan Eldridge got flagged for a low block. “Basically, he was doing his job,” Rodriguez said. Arizona has submitted that play to the league for clarification.

* Rodriguez said Tate got tricked by Oregon State’s Shawn Wilson on the pass that Wilson ended up intercepting. Wilson showed a man-coverage look before backing off into a zone.

* Senior Marcus Griffin was part of the rotation at defensive tackle vs. OSU. “He has earned it,” Rodriguez said. “He’s practiced really well.”

* Rodriguez said freshman defensive end My-King Johnson is among the players who’ve stood out on the scout team. Johnson is redshirting this season but could be a factor as a pass rusher next year with more experience and time in the weight room.

* Rodriguez expects Autzen Stadium to provide a challenging environment. “They’ve got a great crowd,” Rodriguez said, “and they’re right on top of you.” Rodriguez said the Wildcats might practice with the sprinklers on, as they did a few years ago before a game at Utah, to get used to working in wet conditions.

* Rodriguez said he didn’t expect anyone from the Pac-12 to make the College Football Playoff because the conference has so many good teams. He turned out to right. With two losses apiece, USC, Washington and Washington State are all but eliminated from the four-team playoff.

* Rodriguez also advocates a six- or eight-team playoff but said that the current controversy and conversation about the four-team CFP are good for the sport.


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.