To be fair, the Scooby Wright comparisons are completely unfair. They are a media creation (guilty as charged) and wholly premature.
Wright was the best defensive player in college football in 2014 — the sixth unanimous All-American in Arizona Wildcats history. Colin Schooler — who has drawn those comparisons to Wright — has played in three games.
But when you’re an under-recruited linebacker from California wearing a UA uniform and displaying a knack for making game-changing plays early in your career, well, certain associations are inevitable. So it goes with Schooler, a freshman who already has made an impact.
“To compare anybody to Scooby — he was so productive so early in his career — it’s probably not fair to anybody,” said Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez, whose team hosts Utah on Friday night. “But when we recruited him, we saw some of the same skill sets.
“You see an athletic guy that just loves football. He’s been that and then some. And he’s going to keep getting better. … He’s got a nice feel, and his best football is still in front of him.”
It didn’t take Schooler long to carve out a meaty role in Arizona’s rebuilt linebacking corps. Schooler shares time at “Mike” with veteran Brandon Rutt. Although Rutt has started the first three games, they are listed as co-starters.
When Rutt missed a chunk of the UTEP game last week because of a reported concussion, Schooler received extended playing time. He made the most of it.
In the second quarter — when Arizona turned a 0-0 game into an eventual 63-16 thrashing — Schooler forced a fumble and intercepted a pass. The former was straight out of the Scooby scrapbook: Schooler raked the ball out of Kavika Johnson’s hands amid a crowd of players.
UA linebackers coach Scott Boone described the rip-and-strip as a “smart play for a first-year guy.”
It was nothing Tom Schooler hadn’t seen before.
“I’ve seen it a thousand times before,” Colin’s father said by phone Wednesday. “All he’s done his entire life is make plays.”
Forgive Tom Schooler for channeling Phil Wright. It wasn’t intentional. It’s just that each has been championing his son for years. (Schooler has another son, Colin’s older brother, Brendan, who’s a sophomore wide receiver at Oregon.)
Tom Schooler appreciates people comparing his boy to Scooby Wright; it’s about as high a compliment as could be paid to an Arizona linebacker. Tom just doesn’t think Colin deserves it. At least not yet.
“He really hasn’t done anything,” said Tom Schooler, a longtime high school coach who was a member of the defensive staff during Colin’s senior year at Mission Viejo High School in Orange County.
“He still needs to prove himself. If the comparisons come down the road, great. But I think people are jumping the gun because of how much Scooby accomplished.”
Colin Schooler sees it the same way. The long-haired, soft-spoken freshman is flattered that anyone would use his name and Wright’s in the same breath.
But Schooler just wants to become the best version of himself. He isn’t striving to become Scooby Wright IV or Scooby 2.0.
“He was an All-American. I’m just a freshman right now, trying to make some plays,” Schooler said. “I’m just trying to be me.”
Schooler has plenty of room to grow. Boone believes Schooler will play faster when he gains more experience. Boone also believes Schooler will become more vocal in time.
His father described him as a “silent leader” in high school, the type who would lead more by deeds than words. But the middle linebacker in Arizona’s scheme, as in most, has to relay calls and organize the front. He has to be assertive.
“He knows what he’s supposed to do,” Boone said. “He’s just not as confident as he will be about communicating it.”
“Sometimes I second-guess myself,” Schooler said. “I’m still trying to get used to what I’m doing — trying to make sure that I’m doing what I’m supposed to do rather than getting everybody lined up.”
But Schooler also acknowledged that it’s “part of my job.” It shouldn’t take him long to grasp the entirety of the defense.
Colin and brother Brendan would tag along with their father to football practices. Colin attributes his linebacker instincts to his time spent on the other side of the ball. He also played running back in high school.
So did Scooby Wright.
“It’s kind of funny,” said Wright, who was in Tucson on Wednesday for a picture and autograph session. “I watched his highlight film when he was in high school. And I said, ‘Hey, this kid’s a baller.’
“He’s just one of those guys who has to trust the process and keep getting better. That’s all it is to it. He plays hard. He’s a football player.”
Scooby Wright on what he thinks about Arizona’s team this year and RichRod comparing freshman LB Colin Schooler to him. pic.twitter.com/ajH07c83XN— The Wildcaster (@TheWildcaster) September 21, 2017
- Senior “Stud” DeAndre’ Miller’s status remains unclear for Friday. Miller has been a partial participant in practice. He missed all of training camp and the first three games while rehabbing from July foot surgery. The debate for Arizona and Miller is whether it makes sense to use him in a limited role vs. Utah or give him an extra two weeks to get ready for the rest of the season. Arizona is off next week.
- Senior receiver Cam Denson remained in a yellow jersey as he left the practice field but also sported a walking boot, a possible sign that the injury to his right foot suffered in spring is still bothering him. Although he has appeared in a game, Denson would have a good case for a medical redshirt if he elected to pursue one.
- Rodriguez said Week 2 opponent Houston had a good defense but Utah is “probably a step above.” He cited the Utes’ experience, athleticism and speed, especially up front.
- Arizona commit David Watson, an offensive tackle from Amphitheater High School, attended practice.