The first two players ever to commit to Rich Rodriguez at Arizona will not play football again.
Sophomore linebackers Dakota Conwell and C.J. Dozier have retired from football after suffering multiple concussions, Rodriguez told the Star on Wednesday night.
Both are expected to stay on scholarship while they finish their degrees. The Wildcats (1-0) will play at UNLV on Saturday.
“They are no longer playing because of concussions,” Rodriguez said after Wednesday’s practice. “They have had multiple concussions, so at the advice of their doctors, their football career is over.”
Conwell and Dozier were both expected to provide depth at linebacker this season after playing as true freshmen. However, they both had their fall camps cut short because of concussions.
Conwell played in 10 games as a true freshman last season and had 12 total tackles, including three for losses. He served as the backup to Marquis Flowers at the weak-side linebacker spot. Conwell saw extensive playing time in the team’s final regular-season game of the year against ASU and had six tackles, one for a loss.
The Pittsburgh native was rated as a four-star recruit by the Scout.com recruiting service. He appeared to have a bright future: Rodriguez said during spring drills that he expected Conwell to be a regular contributor as a sophomore.
Conwell committed to Rodriguez and the Wildcats in mid-January of 2012.
Two days prior, Rodriguez landed his first recruit at Arizona in Dozier.
Dozier, a three-star recruit from San Diego, graduated early from high school to join the UA as a midyear player. He originally committed to Arizona State, but re-opened his recruitment after Dennis Erickson was fired. Dozier picked the UA over offers from Colorado, Nebraska and Washington.
Dozier played in nine games last season and started against Colorado. He had 27 total tackles and one forced fumble.
The Wildcats still have plenty of depth at linebacker thanks to a few true freshmen. Scooby Wright, Derrick Turituri, DeAndre Miller and Jake Matthews all played in the UA’s opener against NAU.
Wright is expected to start at the strong-side spot again Saturday, and will be backed up by Turituri and sophomore Keoni Bush-Loo. Miller and Matthews will back up Flowers at the weak-side spot.
Jenkins to start
Following a 12-carry, 139-yard performance against NAU in the opener, senior running back Daniel Jenkins will start at UNLV, Rodriguez said.
The coach said Ka’Deem Carey will play in the first half, but that Jenkins “has earned the start.”
Carey has been a full participant in practice this week, but for the time being will serve as the No. 2 back. The junior from Canyon del Oro High School was suspended for Friday’s game against NAU following a pair of offseason run-ins, but has since been reinstated.
Carey led the nation in rushing last season with 1,929 yards and set a school record, but is still working back into the mix after missing Friday’s game.
Clearing the air
Rodriguez did something Wednesday that he usually doesn’t do.
The coach held a team meeting that lasted about 30 minutes. Rodriguez was unhappy with his squad following Tuesday’s practice and wanted to address some issues with his squad before Wednesday’s session.
“We had a good, long meeting today,” Rodriguez said. “I don’t have a ton of team meetings too often. I’d rather give them to their position coach, but we had about a half-hour one today to get some things straightened out.”
Added the coach: “The attitude has been good and the effort is good for the most part, but sometimes, we’re real demanding on that. Some coaches believe you shouldn’t have to coach or demand effort. I’m a little different. We have two major rules; don’t embarrass the program and do your best. Sometimes they don’t even realize they aren’t doing their best.”
Rodriguez didn’t let himself or any of his players speak to reporters following Tuesday’s practice.
Turituri said the team met as a squad even before Rodriguez called a meeting.
“Yesterday after our practice, our guys got together and said we had to have a better practice tomorrow and we all came out and we did a lot better and coach was a lot happier,” Turituri said Wednesday. “Everyone has a bad day, but you have to come back. When you get kicked down, you have to stand back up and that’s what we did today, we stood back up.”
Still waiting on Bruno
True freshman defensive lineman Luca Bruno likely won’t play on Saturday. The reason: The Oak Park, Calif., native has yet to be cleared by the NCAA.
It’s starting to frustrate Rodriguez, who plans to plug Bruno into the mix once he’s eligible to play. Rodriguez said he’s “hopeful but doubtful” that Bruno will be cleared by the time the Wildcats kick off in Las Vegas.
“I’m more doubtful and that’s frustrating because they keep asking for more and more information,” Rodriguez said. “His dad and our compliance department are getting everything they can and every time they get something, they want something more.
“It’s really frustrating and I know it is for the kid, too.”
Rodriguez and the Wildcats are also still waiting to hear about receiver DaVonte Neal’s status, though Rodriguez said earlier this week the program could hear something today. Neal is attempting to play this season after transferring in the offseason from Notre Dame.