The Arizona Wildcats scrimmaged at Arizona Stadium on Saturday morning with 90-plus degree heat radiating off the turf and music blaring from the loudspeakers, what head coach Kevin Sumlin saw as ideal conditions to evaluate his team.
“We wanted to move to different conditions and...what these are about, and we talked about last night at a team meeting, is about getting the other players and the coaches to trust you. To know what you’re doing, play with effort. We’re all going to make mistakes, but don’t make the same mistake over and over again,” Sumlin said. “So we’re at 90 plays, everybody got chance in there, so...this is a real evaluation scrimmage, probably the first big one.”
Offensive lineman Cody Creason saw it as good prep for the opener at Hawaii, which will force the Wildcats to endure heat and humidity.
“Last year when we played Houston, we didn’t really adapt well to the heat, and sometimes during the day games here, we don’t adapt well,” he said. “So I think this was huge for us honestly, especially because we have some day games here, and we kinda know we’re going to go through, and make sure you hydrate, sleep, prepare your body so that you have enough energy to play the whole game.”
Sumlin spoke with the media for roughly 15 minutes afterwards. Here are some of the things he had to say. His full interview can be watched below, along with a look at some of the lineups Arizona rolled out.
Sumlin’s overall takeaway: “I gotta watch the tape, you guys know that. But I thought some guys did some good things. And there’s some guys that if you come in the stadium and the coaches are off the field and you’re not telling them what to do all the time, they got to think on their own, they get tired, it’s a little hot out there and it kind of wore down at the end. But we’ve got to do more of that from a physically tough (standpoint). I think (strength) coach (Brian) Johnson’s done a great job in the summer. I think you guys can see that. But the mental toughness piece and knowing what to do all the time and not letting things outside factors bother you, that’s what today was about. Today was pretty high stress, just from a tempo standpoint, coaches off the field, nobody running behind you and telling you what to do.”
On who stood out: “I thought our D-line was better. We’ve got to be able to rush the passer. It’s hard to judge with your own team. I thought our O-line was equally up to the challenge. There’s some big plays on both sides. We had some receivers make plays, quarterbacks did a nice job. J.J. (Taylor) got loose early and we got him out quick. We know what he can do. And so we got Bam (Smith) and some of the younger backs in there today, (Nathan) Tiford and (Michael) Wiley. But we’ve got to develop a core of running backs so we can get (Taylor) off the field some because of his return game and everything else. We don’t want him carrying the ball 40 times a game.”
On the D-line’s versatility: “We’ve got a couple different plans depending on who we play. From a run standpoint, we’ve got interchangeable parts. I talked about that early, where JB (Brown) can be quicker in there against some teams as a 3-technique. Some teams we play against, we’re gonna need larger guys. Trevon (Mason) is coming along and we’re taking it slow with him to get him in shape. He just got here, but he’s done some really, really good things. He’s a big guy and I asked him how much he weighed yesterday, and he had a big plate of macaroni and cheese, and he said 310. So he’s a little bit bigger than what we listed. We got some other guys that are coming along too in there. JB is comfortable in there and he likes being in there. A lot of guys don’t like it, but he gives us the flexibility to bounce him out to end as a pass rusher inside, and we want to get our best four on the field as much as possible.
On DE Kylan Wilborn’s downtick in production last season: “He was a little nicked up last year and he’s healthy now. He’s got what guys refer to as twitch. He can get off the ball, he’s got great hands, he can rush the passer. Right now, we’re rolling out all those guys and what we want to do is get a two-deep that can roll in games unlike last year. I think we’ve got with him and the two ends...some real pass rushers this year.”
On the quarterback play: “I think they’re improved. They’re getting better all the time. We got a real battle back there. Khalil (Tate) has really improved, I think. He’s going through progressions, I think our walkthroughs have helped him,...he’s putting the ball down and running it and everybody else has improved. We moved the ball today, made some good decisions, think we had one interception all day out of those plays. But they’re making good decisions and not giving the other team the ball, and that’s the first start for the younger players.”
On the wide receivers: Cedric (Peterson) didn’t go today. We know what he can do. He’s having a great camp. And Stanley (Berryhill) has been really, really solid. Tre Adams is kind of up and down. With the young guys, some days these freshmen are lights out. And then we come back the next day and they’re like ‘what’s going on?’ So that’s part of the process and we’ve got some bigger guys, some talented guys, Boobie (Curry)’s been doing great. They’re young, but they’re talented and we just got to push them along because they’re all going to help us. ... More than anything else, we want consistency, which we weren’t last year. And with some of these young guys we got to get them to that level and know what they can do. We’ve got some time to figure that out and today was about that.”
On Jamarye Joiner’s move to WR: “He’s coming along quickly. He’s catching punts now, He’s all bought in. He’s a bigger guy than you think he is out there and he’s explosive, he’s probably one of the top two, three athletes on this team. And he’s caught balls in the middle The one thing you worry about moving guys out there, is will you deal with it in traffic? He’s done it. He’s a competitor, it means something to him, he’s bought in... and I think the relationship with him and Khalil in the room last year helps him a little bit because he likes him.”
On wide receiver Drew Dixon’s development: “He’s coming along good. He’s bigger now. He’s more comfortable, tremendous athlete. He just needs to take another step to be consistent ... and that’s part of growing up.
On defensive backs who have stood out: “Tristan Cooper’s been solid. He should be. He’s playing all the time. We got real battles at corner and safety. I think Scottie Young Jr. has really upped his game. He’s become a leader, he’s communicating, he’s a much different player, a much different guy than he was when I first got here. Just how he handles himself, how he talks to the players, how he talks to everybody else. I’ve been really pleased with his progress.”
Hear what Kevin Sumlin had to say after Arizona Football’s Saturday scrimmagePosted by AZ Desert Swarm on Saturday, August 3, 2019
First-team defense: Jalen Harris (edge), Tony Fields (LB), Colin Schooler (LB), Jace Whittaker (CB), Christian Young (CB), Scottie Young Jr. (S), Tristan Cooper (S), Lorenzo Burns (CB), Finton Connolly (DL), JB Brown (DL), Kylan Wilborn (edge)
First-team offense: Khalil Tate (QB), J.J. Taylor (RB), Edgar Burrola (RT), Cody Creason (RG), Josh McCauley (C), Josh Donovan (LG), Donovan Laie (LT), Stanley Berryhill III (WR), Jaden Mitchell (WR), Tre Adams (WR), Jake Peters (TE)
Notable plays (media members were only allowed to watch the starters and backups play one series)
- J.J. Taylor broke down the right side for a 20-ish-yard gain on the first play.
- Bam Smith had a 40-ish-yard TD run.
- Rhett Rodriguez completed a back-shoulder throw to Boobie Curry.
- Jace Whittaker broke up a deep pass by Khalil Tate.