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Arizona Wildcats coach Rodriguez: Anu Solomon needs to take the next step

For the first time since he became Arizona’s head coach in 2011, Rich Rodriguez has the luxury of a returning starter at the quarterback position.

Last year, redshirt freshman Anu Solomon threw for 3,793 yards and 28 touchdowns with just nine interceptions while also tallying 291 yards and two scores on the ground. He led the Wildcats to a 10-win season that included a Territorial Cup victory over rival Arizona State as well as a Pac-12 South championship and berth in the Vizio Fiesta Bowl.

Matt Scott and B.J. Denker, the quarterbacks before Solomon, each only had one year as the team’s starter. Solomon, if he keeps the job, would be the first under RichRod to get a second.

With the Wildcats are set to open spring practices Wednesday in Tucson, there would appear to be one less position to worry about.

“Anu’s got to get better in a lot of facets, just like everybody else,” Rodriguez said Tuesday. “He should have some confidence because he played really well at times. Take the next step as far as cleaning up the things that he maybe did not do as well or as consistent last year.

“He’s a competitive guy. With he and Jerrard (Randall) and then in particular, Brandon Dawkins and Zach (Werlinger) are the two young guys, so this will be a big spring for them because all four of those guys will get a lot of reps.”

Randall, a former LSU quarterback, appeared in four games for Arizona last season, failing to complete any of his three passes while turning 15 rushing attempts into 104 yards and one touchdown. Dawkins redshirted last year, his freshman season, as did Werlinger.

But while Rodriguez may not have come out and said it, it’s hard to imagine Solomon is not the heavy favorite to be the team’s QB in 2015.

Though he struggled a bit down the stretch — especially in losses to Oregon in the Pac-12 championship game and Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl — he also had a handful of excellent games, including five-touchdown performances in wins over California and Washington State. And though his numbers against Arizona State were not gaudy, his QB rating of 186.1 that afternoon was his second-highest mark of the season.

“We know that Anu has done it in the big stage and we also know that Jerrard has gotten some experience and can do it,” he said. “But, that being said, we have to play better. We played well at times last year with that but there were times where inexperience showed up and that’s our job as coaches to make sure that everybody gets better, but particularly that position because it’s so important for our success.”