The Arizona Wildcats close out their spring practices on Saturday with the official Spring Game in Arizona Stadium. It's the first time since 2011 that the Spring Game will actually be played in the stadium.
1 PM MST (Gates open at 11, Celebrity Flag Football at 11:15 AM)
Players to watch:
It's tough to get a real grasp on what this football team will look like come the end of August, but there are several new players that fans should keep an eye on.
The quarterback battle for all intensive purposes is down to three guys: Jesse Scroggins, Connor Brewer, and Anu Solomon. Yes, Jerrard Randall and Nick Isham will probably see significant snaps during the Spring Game, but don't expect either one to be in contention for the starting job in 2014. Randall just has not been in the system long enough, and Isham has the experience, but not that play-making ability.
Scroggins has really turned it around this spring after a fall full of disappointment. Connor Brewer has a couple of advantages having played with a couple of the wide receivers before (Cayleb Jones at Texas and DaVonte' Neal at Chaparral)
Anu Solomon probably has the most natural athletic abilities of the group, and his redshirt season last year gave him a lot of time to observe the system, and grow his game. According to RichRod, Solomon has consistently improved during practices this semester, which is a good sign for him if he is going to win that starting job.
During the game, there will be a contest where a fan will have the chance to out-throw one of the QBs. Rodriguez said he expects Randall or Scroggins to throw the ball 75-80 yards. Good luck to whoever has to go up against that.
Terris Jones-Grigsby has the most experience out of the group that is looking to replace Ka'Deem Carey and Daniel Jenkins. Jared Baker was hurt in the ASU game last season, so he will not be out there and probably won't be ready for the start of the season either. Also look for Zach Green and DaVonte' Neal to get some carries.
The main thing to know here is that Austin Hill is not scheduled to be a part of a lot of the live action. There's nothing to worry about, just that the coaching staff isn't going to throw him into a live situation in front of a crowd in April while he's still gaining confidence on that injured knee.
And then of course there's Nate Phillips and Samajie Grant, who return after stellar freshman seasons last year. Their roles might be a little different this year with the addition of all the size to the receiving corps, but they should still both be extremely effective.
A lot of the secondary returns. Jared Tevis, Tra'Mayne Bondurant, and Jonathan McKnight are all back, and they're all seeing better competition during practice, which should improve their games as well.
Will Parks, who filled in when Bondurant and Tevis were hurt, has improved. Anthony Lopez is also looking for more playing time, but may have a threat from redshirt freshman David Price. Price laid out Neal in practice last Friday with a huge hit, and seems to be in the mix for significant snaps in 2014.
At linebacker, Scooby Wright will be the man once again. DeAndre' Miller and Jake Matthews bring some height that wasn't there last year. Both of them are 6-3, and can use that height to disrupt the intermediate passing game, something that the defense struggled with a bit last year.
LB and the defensive line are what's most worrisome right now. Redshirt freshman Luca Bruno is the newcomer that could make the most noise on the DL. But expect to see a lot of people rotated in and out up front to get them all some more experience.
It's a football practice in April. There's still more than four months between now and the start of the season, so some of the things that you see during the Spring Game will probably not be some of the things that you see come the regular season. The two sure things on Saturday though will be how the receivers and secondary compete against each other. Those are two groups that are full of talent and experience, and it could be fun to watch those battles all afternoon.