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Arizona football: Observations from the Wildcats’ first spring practice

Starters, injuries, position changes, and so much more

For the first time in 2017, the Arizona Wildcats hit the practice field as a team on a rainy Saturday afternoon in Tucson.

The entire thing was open for observation, so here are a few things that stood out in addition to Justin Holt not being present due to medically retiring, and Terrence Miller helping coach the wide receivers.

Recruiting visitors

Two recruits that Arizona is pursuing to join this team in the fall were present for the team’s practice. They were 2017 QB K’Hari Lane, and Florida offensive line grad transfer Cameron Dillard.

If you don’t know much about Lane, you should read this and this. Dillard announced his plans to transfer from Florida in January, and started 19 games at center for the Gators in his time there.

Other visitors included 2017 signee Rhett Rodriguez, who was watching the majority of practice next to quarterbacks coach Rod Smith, and 2018 QB commit Jamarye Joiner from Cienega. Tucson High’s D.J. Hinton was also present.

“He’ll probably be at every practice,” Rod Smith said about RhettRod. “He’s eager to get going as well. He’s just out there on his own observing, watching. He can be there and observe, take notes, and take mental reps.”

“I haven’t sat down and really quizzed him to see what he knows and doesn’t know,” Smith added about Rhett’s knowledge of the playbook. “We’ve talked and we can speak the same language per se — I’m not speaking French to him — but for me to know how much he knows...he would know more than I would. But I’d say he’ll probably understand what’s going on.”


Here is a list of the players that were present that did not take part in any part of practice:

  • Parker Zellers
  • Gerhard de Beer
  • Michael Eletise
  • Brion Anduze
  • Jacob Colacion
  • Cedric Peterson

Arizona does not release injury information, but several of these are carry overs from last year. Anduze suffered his knee injury in last year’s opening spring practice.

Of note, Nick Wilson and J.J. Taylor did participate fully, though they were not getting first team reps for the most part.

Starting units

Here’s the first team units for the majority of practice:

OFFENSE: Brandon Dawkins (QB), Zach Green (RB), Cam Denson (WR), Shun Brown (WR), Shawn Poindexter (WR), Trevor Wood (TE), Layth Friekh (LT), Christian Boettcher (LG), Nathan Eldridge (C), Jacob Alsadek (RG), Cody Creason (RT)

DEFENSE: Justin Belknap (DE), Finton Connolly (NG), Luca Bruno (DE), DeAndre’ Miller (STUD), Brandon Rutt (MIKE), Gavin Robertson Jr. (WILL), Dane Cruikshank (CB), Jace Whittaker (CB), Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles (S), Isaiah Hayes (S), Tristan Cooper

It should also be noted that the third team offensive line only had two players on it thanks to the injury situation.

Poindexter had a day that stood out above the others.

“Me and Brandon (Dawkins) and Khalil (Tate) and all the quarterbacks have really been working that back shoulder so we’re getting that timing down and we’re trying to get it perfect,” Poindexter explained. “But I also had a lot of drops today too, so I gotta brush up on those.”

“Just lost focus and tried to run before I caught it.”

Position changes

As you can see above, Robertson Jr. at linebacker is new. He was at safety last year.

“We had kind of decided to move him there at the end of last year,” Rich Rodriguez explained. “He was getting redshirted and now he’s at linebacker. Defensively we’ve got a couple different moving parts going on, but I like the way the staff is set up now. Now we just gotta get better.”

“When you’re a freshman getting redshirted, you’re just looking at the scout team cards anyway, so I don’t know if it’s that big of a transition,” Rodriguez continued. “There are some differences (between Will linebacker and Spur/Bandit safety) but I think the way we’ve got it structured it’s just more of a natural fit.”

“We recruited him as a physical safety, and he’s a big guy that’s gotten bigger,” coach added. “He’s done a good job in the weight room, but the true evaluation for most of these guys in spring probably won’t come until at least halfway in.”

Some linebackers were doing all of the defensive line drills. They were: DeAndre’ Miller, Jose Ramirez, Corey Selenski, and Kahi Neves.

Arizona will host a Spring showcase open to fans on Thursday March 2nd at 6 PM. It will take place in Arizona Stadium, and will also be broadcast on Pac-12 Networks.