FOOTBALL

Arizona football: Breakneck practices just a few days away

2012-07-27T00:00:00Z Arizona football: Breakneck practices just a few days awayRyan Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
July 27, 2012 12:00 am  • 

Jake Fischer knows what this sounds like. But he has a problem.

"I can't get above 215 pounds to save my life," the Arizona Wildcats linebacker said with a laugh. "The (game) program's going to say 225, but … I got skinny, man. My metabolism's higher than it's ever been. I just can't put on weight.

"If I were a normal guy, I'd be as happy as can be. But I'm going up against 300-pound linemen, man - they're going to have 100 pounds on me."

Fischer can blame - or thank - the UA's new strength and conditioning program. Wildcats players have been running more this summer than at any time in their collective lives, all with hopes of being in good enough shape to handle first-year coach Rich Rodriguez's breakneck practices.

Quarterback Matt Scott said his "endurance has gotten a lot better" under strength coaches Chris Allen and Parker Whiteman. A handful of his teammates have tweeted and said similar things during a long offseason.

Still, all the summer preparation won't be enough.

Rodriguez said this week that "none, zero" of his players will be in game shape when the team holds its first practice Thursday at a converted Kindall/Sancet Stadium. More than a handful of them, he suspects, might not make it though the four weeks of preseason camp.

"The guys that worked out in the summer won't have any problem with it," he said. "And the guys that didn't, will."

The conditioning talk is more than just bluster from a coach looking to change the program's culture: It's the key to Arizona's spread-option offense and 3-3-5 "odd stack" defense.

Both schemes emphasize speed above all else, but that's only part of "playing fast."

The Wildcats must also master their intricate schemes during camp. Rodriguez plans to pare down the team's playbook in the weeks leading up to the Sept.1 opener against Toledo, in part to keep things simple.

"We're not going to be good enough to play poorly and win, so we can't beat ourselves," he said. "We have 30 days to get them in game shape. How many guys will be in shape for the beginning of practice? I hope most of them. By then, I'll know how far we have to go."

It's not that the Wildcats were in poor shape under former strength coach Corey Edmond, both Rodriguez and Fischer said; it's just that the old system was designed for a different style of play.

Edmond's staff placed an emphasis on quick-twitch muscles and short bursts of speed.

Under Rodriguez, Arizona needs both quickness and endurance. The Wildcats aren't expected to huddle on offense; the defense, meanwhile, must be prepared to spend most of the game on the field because of the quick-strike scoring.

The offseason conditioning will set the tone for the season.

"They're not going out there trying to run the Boston Marathon," Rodriguez said. "But at the same time, if there are 175 or 180 plays in a game, including special teams, I want our guys to out there and be in shape every snap."

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



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