The Arizona Wildcats are making a quarterback change this weekend against the UCLA Bruins, as sophomore Rhett Rodriguez will make his first career start in place of Khalil Tate, who continues to battle an ankle injury.
Rodriguez’s playing time has been limited, but he got his first major action last Friday in UA’s 42-10 loss to the Utah Utes.
Rodriguez, the son of former Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez, completed 20 of 38 passes for 226 yards and a touchdown.
Rodriguez, who starred at nearby Catalina Foothills High School, will become the first Tucson-area quarterback to start for the Wildcats since Bill Prickett in 1991.
A few UA players were available to the media Tuesday and here is what they had to say about their new starting QB:
Arizona DE/LB Jalen Harris on if Rodriguez starting changes the game for the defense: “No, we’re supposed to play hard regardless of who the quarterback is, so I don’t think that affects it.”
Arizona DT PJ Johnson on the difference between Rodriguez and Tate: “Rhett does a lot of good things at practice, so I don’t think, besides Khalil’s legs, that it’s a big drop off. We believe in him.”
Arizona S Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles on Rodriguez, who he played against in high school: “We had a scrimmage against him at Tucson High. It was eventful. I remember we won, but it was cool to see him out there getting to play a little bit.”
Flannigan-Fowles on what it was like to watch Rodriguez play against Utah: “It was real cool to see compete and see what he can do. And he gets the nod this week, so hopefully he can go there, prepare, and help us get a win this Saturday.”
Flannigan-Fowles’ evaluation of Rodriguez: “He knows the offense inside and out. He’s a smart guy so he knows where to go with the ball. He’s good with the ball in his hands, he doesn’t make a lot of mistakes.”
Arizona WR Shawn Poindexter’s initial evaluation of Rodriguez: “Rhett is a coach’s son, so anytime he steps on the field you know he’s going to do what he has to do. He brings a positive energy and you know he’s going to be playing at the highest level he can play, so he pulls that out of you as well.”
Poindexter on the adjustment from Tate to Rodriguez: “In my opinion, it’s not that big of an adjustment because this offense is built around a pocket-passing quarterback and that’s where Rhett is going to thrive the most. So I think we just have to continue what we do on a daily basis.”
Poindexter on how Rodriguez handled his first extended action at Utah: “I don’t think the score really showed how well Rhett handled the environment but, man, he came out there every drive with energy and passion to just continue to get down the field and get points on the board.”
Poindexter on Rodriguez’s style of play: “You just know he’s going to go through his progressions. That’s the biggest thing.”
Poindexter on the concerns about Rodriguez’s arm strength: “In my honest opinion, there was one route I ran and I didn’t want to overrun his arm and he overthrew me because I wasn’t running. ... At first I was little worried about (his arm strength), but after that I was like, ‘he’s going to make the throws. He’s going to have the timing down.’ It’s all about timing and that’s what we’re going to work on in practice. ... We’ve been taking reps with Rhett since camp but it’ll be a different level for us.”
Arizona WR Shawn Poindexter evaluates new starting QB Rhett Rodriguez, whose arm strength is not a concern for UA receivers: “Honestly there was one route I ran and I didn’t want to overrun his arm and he overthrew me because I wasn’t running. ... He’s going to make the throws.” pic.twitter.com/NL7kTF53qK— Ryan Kelapire (@RKelapire) October 16, 2018