Arizona football opened spring practice Saturday with some missed assignments, some slipping on the dewy morning grass, and lots of yelling.
But, in head coach Rich Rodriguez’s second spring season, the results were a lot better Saturday morning than a year ago.
“I liked the enthusiasm,” Rodriguez said. “The guys were anxious to get out there. There was pretty good retention from what we ended up the season with from the returning players.
“From a familiarity standpoint, it’s night and day from the first practice last year. There’s a lot less stress and effort than at this time a year ago.”
In the first practice a season ago, Rodriguez had to stop because they were unable to retrieve the popsicles the coaching staff handed out.
This year, no such problem.
“We’re in shape, but they understand the routine,” Rodriguez said.
Said receiver Austin Hill: “We have a better attitude because we know what we’re getting ourselves into. Now that we’ve already been in the system, we can kind of slow it down mentally. It was a lot more fun than it was last year.”
The Wildcats will have 13 more practices over the next six weeks, including a scrimmage on March 29 and the spring game, which wraps up spring practice on April 13.
Because of the limited amount of practice time, quarterback B.J. Denker said there is the threat of trying to do too much in a small amount of time.
“Since I’m one of the only guys that has experience, I can come out and try and do too much,” Denker said. “That’s not my style, I try to be the smartest player on the field and get the ball to our playmakers.”
Practice may have run smoother this year for Arizona players, but there are still obstacles to overcome this offseason. For starters, there are about a dozen players who are unavailable to practice this spring because of offseason surgery, including quarterback Jesse Scroggins, who had surgery on his foot after transferring to the UA in January.
Because of injuries in the defensive backfield, former receiver/quarterback/kick returner Richard Morrison is going to try his hand at cornerback, a position he has not played since high school.
“[The move] was at his request,” Rodriguez said. “I think he knows we need some competition there, and he asked to move. I thought that was going to be a pretty good move for us. We’re down a few corners this spring, and he’s going to get a lot of reps. He’s athletic enough to help us. We’ve got to fix a lot of issues defensively, everybody knows that.”
Denker sat behind Matt Scott all season, save for one start against Colorado, but one game’s worth of experience and all the reps he received in practice are only beneficial to him, he said.
“Any time you can get game experience, it’s great,” Denker said. “Even being behind Matt the whole year, the playbook and the knowledge helped. I wasn’t second-guessing any decision. I knew exactly what I needed to do. It made me go faster, it made our offense go faster.”
•This story was courtesy of the Arizona Daily Wildcat.