FOOTBALL

Arizona football: Plenty to do in offseason for Wildcats

2012-04-19T00:00:00Z 2012-04-19T07:07:06Z Arizona football: Plenty to do in offseason for WildcatsRyan Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
April 19, 2012 12:00 am  • 

Rich Rodriguez spent six weeks teaching the Arizona Wildcats how to play his system.

On Monday, he taught them how to coach.

During a two-hour practice on campus, Arizona's first-year coach showed his players how to run - and police - drills that should keep them advancing over voluntary summer workouts.

The Wildcats need every edge they can get. The team learned the basics of the spread-option offense and 3-3-5 "odd stack" defense during 15 spring practices but is still far too slow - and way too behind - to execute both with any efficiency.

But the UA has time, and enough enthusiasm to turn things around.

Here's a look at the good, bad and ugly from Rodriguez's first spring, and what's coming up as the Wildcats head into a long, hot summer:

• The good: Matt Scott gets it. Arizona's quarterback was stellar all spring, giving Rodriguez hope that he can handle a system that's traditionally brutal on first-year signal-callers.

Scott did not throw an interception in 78 scrimmage passes, and he committed just one turnover - a botched exchange in Saturday's spring game. In three spring scrimmages, Scott completed 50 passes for 668 yards and eight touchdowns.

The addition of a quarterback run game should make the athletic Scott even more dangerous this fall.

"It's going to be really hard, with the backs we have and me running, for any defense to cover us," he said. "I'm not even sure it's possible."

• The bad: Arizona's defense is still behind. The 2011 season marked one of the worst in program history. A new scheme, coupled with the departure of cornerback Cortez Johnson and safety Adam Hall's knee injury, will have the Wildcats playing catch-up this summer.

Luckily, the blueshirts have time. Now that they've learned the basics of the 3-3-5 attack, they'll blitz more and take more chances.

"There's a lot of different things in this defense you can do: If you read it, you can shoot a gap," linebacker Jake Fischer said. "We're going to be studying up a lot more."

• The ugly: Arrests marred a hopeful spring. Five current players and one former Wildcat were arrested March 2 following a pair of fights at an off-campus party, putting a damper on a hopeful first week of camp.

Rodriguez suspended offensive tackle Fabbians Ebbele and defensive back Jourdon Grandon, both of whom have been charged with assault and trespassing, for the final 14 practices of spring.

Defensive tackle Justin Washington, offensive lineman Eric Bender-Ramsay and safety Jared Tevis were allowed to practice as they faced trespassing charges.

• What's next: Voluntary workouts and conditioning drills. Spring practices marked a critical first step, but the most important part of the offseason starts now.

Players will spend the summer lifting and working on speed, two key components to the Wildcats' frenetic schemes. They've already shown signs of improvement: Defensive end Reggie Gilbert, Fischer and safety Mark Watley all won Iron Wildcat awards for their work in the weight room. Cornerback Shaquille Richardson and offensive lineman Trace Biskin are among a handful of players who have emerged as weight-room leaders.

"They're trying hard, but there's another level we can get to in part because of our work ethic," Rodriguez said.

"Our guys have to have a great summer. We have to go into fall camp in the best shape of our athletic lives."

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



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