Anu Solomon had a pretty simple assignment on game days this year.
“It was just step out of the way for the guys that are playing,” Solomon said.
That figures to change next season.
The former four-star quarterback recruit, who redshirted this season, is ready to have others step out of their way for him. The Las Vegas Bishop Gorman High School product is 15 pounds stronger, a lot more comfortable with coach Rich Rodriguez’s offense and more ready than ever to vie for the UA’s starting job this spring.
“I think the biggest thing for Anu to learn is that his redshirt year is about over and now it’s time to compete,” Rodriguez said. “I’m looking forward to a big spring from him.
“It’s going to be an important one.”
With B.J. Denker set to play his final game in an Arizona uniform in the AdvoCare V100 Bowl, Solomon and the UA’s other quarterbacks will get their chance to compete for his job in the spring.
After throwing for 2,849 yards, 35 touchdowns and just five interceptions as a high school senior, Solomon was hoping to compete for the starting job as a true freshman. Instead, Rodriguez and the UA coaches decided to redshirt Solomon and give him a year to develop.
“It was definitely a learning experience for me,” Solomon said. “It’s a humbling experience for me, just going out there and not playing. There were times where I’d be like, ‘Dang, I wish I could be out there.’ But it’s life. I had to sit down, wait a year, and just compete for next year.”
The quarterback competition that will be in full swing in the spring has begun a bit early. With the Wildcats not playing in their bowl game until Dec. 31, Rodriguez has been able to treat the last six or seven practices like spring drills.
Backups and redshirts have gotten as many reps as the starters, and the coaching staff has been watching the younger players with a closer eye.
It provides Solomon an opportunity to impress Rodriguez and company one final time before spring drills open in early March.
“Hopefully they can depend on me if my name is called,” Solomon said. “There’s pressure, of course, but there are some traits I have to work on like my leadership — just going out there and telling guys what to do and just being in control.”
During his redshirt season, Solomon focused mostly on gaining strength and familiarity with the UA’s offense. He’s made strides in both areas.
He came in at 190 pounds, and now is up to 205. He’s hoping to continue to add muscle and be strong enough to handle Pac-12 defenders next season.
The quarterback also spent extra time in the film room studying Denker during games and trying to learn the intricacies of Arizona’s zone-read offense.
“I’ve been going in the weight room on our days off. I’ve been going to the film room, just doing the things that the coaches want us to do,” Solomon said.
“It’s not the terminology of the system that’s tough, it’s the scheme of the play. There are like six different things going on on one play, and you just have to know when to hit it and what’s going on.”
As hard as he’s worked this season, Rodriguez says it’s time for Solomon to get it going even more now that his redshirt season is nearly over.
“I think like a lot of (redshirt) guys, you go through it a little bit and it’s hard to sit out, especially for a guy that I think started all four years of high school,” Rodriguez said.
“He’s got a lot to learn. I think a lot of freshmen, when they know they aren’t playing, they just kinda go not as intense as they need to be. I think Anu sees an opportunity for the spring and we’ll see what happens.
“He’ll be in the mix, but there will be several of them in the mix.”
Solomon figures to face his biggest competition from Texas transfer Connor Brewer, who sat out with Solomon this season, and junior college transfer Jerrard Randall, who will arrive next month.
Javelle Allen, who served as Denker’s backup this season, and third-stringer Jesse Scroggins also should be involved.
“It’s going to be real competitive with the transfers coming in and Connor,” Solomon said. “They’re one step ahead of me right now, and I just have to keep getting better.”
- The UA officially added six junior college players to the program Wednesday.
They are: defensive end Jerod Cody, cornerback Patrick Glover, offensive guard Kaige Lawrence, linebacker Antonio Smothers, defensive lineman Jeff Worthy and Randall.
All six signed their letters of intent and sent them to Arizona. The UA hosted a morning workout Wednesday and some of the letters weren’t in at that time, so Rodriguez didn’t talk about the signings.
He’s expected to talk about the new additions following Friday’s practice.
Randall, Smothers and Worthy are ranked as three-star prospects by the Scout.com recruiting service. Cody, Glover and Lawrence are rated as two-stars.
Safety Jamie Byrd, who was committed to the UA, decommitted from Arizona on Wednesday and signed with South Florida.