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Arizona football: Wildcats will use break to finish spring practice strong

With only three practices left for Arizona this spring, Rich Rodriguez has to get the most out of his guys

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Head Coach of the Arizona Wildcats, Rich Rodriguez, was not thrilled after practice last Wednesday. It seemed as if his quarterback play is really what started to grind his gears, exiting the field with some choice words about his signal callers. Rodriguez' anger level intensified when he found out Orlando Bradford was placed in a walking boot at some point throughout practice, completely unaware of the injury until after practice.

Anu Solomon has been dealing with a hamstring injury since March 4th and has been held out since then, which means it was up to Brandon Dawkins, Khalil Tate, Zach Werlinger and Anthony Medina.

The team had practice on Thursday the 10th, with Rodriguez giving them the week off for spring break, set to return to practice the following Monday, March 21st.

Spring practice had been smooth sailing up until that Wednesday practice. The guys on defense were excited to move on to a new season and the new coaching changes on that side of the ball also gave some players new life. On offense, the receiving corps proves to be the bright spot and Anu Solomon has some healthy competition, challenged by Brandon Dawkins all spring.

It also helped that Rodriguez broke up spring practice over the span of a month and a half, allowing the guys to come into each practice fresh and excited, rather than having practice every day, with each day adding more and more fatigue as the spring continues.

While that Wednesday practice might not have been the most efficient, I believe that it's good for Rodriguez show his frustration, to a degree of course.

This is a new culture for Arizona. With the momentum Rodriguez had gained in his first three years, coming off an extremely disappointing season and adding an almost entirely new coaching staff on the defensive side of the ball, Rodriguez means business. It's only been a few weeks and we've already seen a huge difference from the players on the field, as well as players being recruited.

Parker Zellers spoke a bit about that culture change after practice on Wednesday.

"It's great, it's energetic," he said. "Every day we're going out. You just gotta be thankful you're playing football. It's 70 degrees, breezy, you just have to be thankful and I think the coaches just kind of bring that out of people, out of the team. Going out and having fun with it rather than just 'ah dang practice'. Just embrace it and you will get better and will have fun.'

There are no plays off at Arizona, with the intensity from everyone at an all-time high now. That disappointing end to 2015 fueled this team, never wanting to go through that disappointment again.

"We have a live energy, we always get on each other," redshirt freshman safety Anthony Mariscal added. "We never let each other take a play off. Today [Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles] was on me, keeping up my tempo because I messed up a few and he was on me. We have that kind of relationship like that."

Some fans or even parents of the players might not like seeing and hearing their coach yell at frustration, but a moment like this could go a long way for the remainder of spring and heading into fall camp. Football practice can't always be lollipops and rainbows. Sometimes you just need an off day like this to keep up the intensity.

Hopefully, this spring break can allow the guys to keep their mind off football for a couple of days and hit the ground running hard and fresh when they return from break. And with about a week and a half off and three spring practices left, Rich Rodriguez cannot afford to have a sluggish practice.

Here are some highlights of last Wednesday's spring practice. It looked as if they positioned the offense inside their own 10-yard line against the defense, putting the pressure on the quarterbacks to command the team. Obviously, that's not an ideal situation to be in on offense but it's one you have to practice. And from Rodriguez' reaction, it seems as if that's a drill that didn't go well.