Watching from the sidelines, unable to play, is tough enough. For Layth Friekh, watching his teammates play on a television at home was even worse.
“It was real painful,” Friekh said of the past two weeks, during which he was ineligible to play for the Arizona Wildcats. “Even when I redshirted I was on the travel squad, at every game and dressed. This is the first time I’ve watched my team on TV.”
But he will be watching no more. After sitting out Arizona’s first two games, the result of a suspension handed down by the NCAA in exchange for getting an extra year of eligibility, the senior will be back at his familiar left tackle position for Saturday’s game against Southern Utah.
That’s the spot Friekh had started for 32 consecutive games entering this season. It’s also where he made an appearance for a single game as a freshman, in 2014, which under old NCAA rules counted toward his four seasons of eligibility.
Last spring the NCAA altered its redshirt rules, now allowing players to appear in up to four games throughout a season and still retain their eligibility. Friekh said he hoped that would lead to him getting his suspension lifted but instead it was upheld as a form of reverse grandfathering.
“They said if they did that for me they’d have 100 other people they’d have to do that for,” Friekh said.
Friekh said he watched Arizona’s games with teammates Jace Whittaker and Malcolm Holland, both of whom were dealing with injuries. While they might have been following the ball each play, Friekh said his entire focus was on the offensive line.
“O-line the whole time,” he said. “I was yelling, yelling and cussing the whole time. Even when we had a good play.”
Friekh’s return will move true freshman Donovan Laie to right tackle, where Cody Creason started the first two games. Creason now moves to left guard where he’ll be alongside his “buddy” in Friekh.
“I’m glad he’s there, he’s someone I trust,” Friekh said of Creason. “I know he puts the work in.”
Friekh said he’s hoping to bring experience and a “calm voice” to a line that is basically starting over with the shuffling. He says he’s stayed in shape, having practiced on scout team the last few weeks, but he won’t be in complete game shape until he’s had some real action.
“I’m in shape, but ask anybody, you have to play one game to get into game shape,” he said. “I’m going to take this game to get my legs back and be ready for the next one.”