Fisch: Gunner Cruz in the mix to win Wildcats’ starting QB job

Mar 27, 2021, 11:31 AM

The last time Gunner Cruz was playing football in Arizona, he threw for 3,598 yards, 30 touchdowns and rushed for an additional 14 scores.

Those numbers came during Cruz’s senior year of high school in 2018.

The quarterback spent the past two years at Washington State, playing sparingly before entering the transfer portal, and Arizona Wildcats head coach Jedd Fisch was eager to bring the Queen Creek, Ariz. native down to Tucson to compete for the starting quarterback job.

“I liked his size, I liked his arm strength,” Fisch said Thursday. “I liked his ability to move the ball when he was in high school. … You look at some of his throws from high school and that was less than two years ago. You assume he’s always getting better.”

Cruz committed to Washington State in 2018 but only saw playing time in one game last year, a 38-14 blowout at the hands of the USC Trojans. Cruz completed 5 of 7 passes for 34 yards and a touchdown.

After transferring to Arizona, Fisch and the Wildcats have presented Cruz with the task of learning a system much different than the one he learned with the Cougars.

In Fisch’s system, Cruz has learned to take snaps under center, which is something he had not done since middle school. Cruz played in a variety of systems, learning Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense before playing for Nick Rolovich. Now, he learns Fisch’s offense shaped by the coach’s many years jumping around college and NFL.

“It’s been a little bit of an adjustment period but it’s been good to learn new things,” Cruz said. “All three are great offenses. I enjoyed my time I spent in all of them. Here, there’s a little bit more verbiage in the play call. … I’ve been able to take all three offenses and put it all together in a way I understand the game.”

With former South Florida quarterback Jordan McCloud not arriving in Tucson until June, Cruz has spring to make a case for the starting role. Returnees Will Plummer and Kevin Doyle, plus transfer Nick Moore, are among his competition.

Despite minimal collegiate experience, Cruz’s foundation that started with Leach is enough to make Fisch comfortable rolling with him as a quarterback competition unfolds.

“I’m excited about bringing him into the mix and seeing what he can do for us,” Fisch said.

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