In previous preseasons, there would be a short gap between when the Arizona Wildcats ended a practice and Kevin Sumlin or another coach would meet with reporters to discuss what they saw.
But 2020 being 2020, the delay on Friday night was instead due to Sumlin having to finish watching practice. On video. From his living room.
Sumlin spent the first night of Arizona’s “pre-fall practice,” as he’s referring to it, at his home, where he’s been stuck for the past week since receiving a positive COVID-19 test.
“I think our video staff has done a great job of turnaround, getting this stuff to me,” Sumlin said via Zoom. “I was pleased with the first day. Obviously there’s going to be some takeaways from the day because it’s a different system and a different way to do things, just like everything else has been the last seven months.”
Sumlin said he had a meeting earlier in the day with Dr. Stephen Paul, who has been in charge of Arizona’s student-athlete re-entry plan since June, and will have another “assessment” in the morning to determine when he can return to practice.
“Basically I’m right on the edge of the time to get back from a 10-day period,” Sumlin said. “If not tomorrow, we’re not practicing Sunday, but we’ll see after the assessment but I would look for Monday at the latest. Obviously I don’t sound terrible, so it’s not as bad as it could be based on some people I’ve talked to. I texted (Kansas coach) Les (Miles) today, some other coaches I’ve talked with. I’ll know more in the morning.”
Below is what else Sumlin discussed after Arizona’s first practice ahead of the Nov. 7 opener at Utah:
On how the practice went (or looked): “The first time we’ve been 11-on-11 was today. Did some 7-of-7 today. Actually lining up against each other formationally. All the individual drills, all the things that we’ve been able to watch, guys kinda knew—not kinda, they knew what was going on. We were very, very efficient in our time, I thought. The energy level was great. Pleased with day one.
“The first two days, traditionally—we’ve kind of changed things just with the ramp-up—guys come out excited and that’’s when you get a bunch of soft-tissue (injury) stuff. We did not want to be out there very long, we wanted to be quality, we wanted to get the reps in, we wanted to teach, but because of the individual drills and walkthroughs, and the Zoom meetings, I was pleased with how we aligned for pretty much the first time our defense has lined up against an offense and assignment.”
On comparing this to a normal start of training camp: “We’ve been at this a little bit longer. Our coaches, in a normal year, aren’t with the players in the summer. Our strength and conditioning staff is. Then we have a discretionary week in late July, August and then we have the 29 days of practice. This has been completely different. Our ability to ramp up, take some time off, then keep ramping up is going to be (helpful). That’s why we weren’t out there very long, and we will continue to go up in time, and our recovery days will change. What I think is important is how we do it and what we’re doing.
“It’s not a training camp, we’re not using that word. It’s pre-fall practice is what it is because we’ve got school during the day, we’ve got lifting, we’ve got meetings and we’ve got practice at night. It’s close to in-season than training camp, when you have guys basically all day long. We have to get guys out of the locker room, there’s no hanging around the building, there’s none of that. It’s completely different than a regular training camp and guys just hanging around.”
On the linebacker depth: “(Anthony) Pandy has embraced it. He was working a lot inside today. We know he’s a versatile player that can get outside and rush the passer, but based on depth and everything else he’s a natural inside guy. We’ve got some younger guys that we’re working with at the other spot. We’ve talked a lot about maybe nickel being our best package right now, based on guys who’ve played. You look at a young guy like DJ Mourning who’s got the body type, who’s going to help us. I think at inside linebacker … we’ve got some good leadership there. Pandy’s at the front of the drills, you see him communicating, even on video, with these younger guys. Outside … they know that our outside linebackers have some size now, and some flexibility.”
On the defensive line newcomers: “We’ve got some young, long, talented big D-linemen. But we also have two transfers who have played (college) football who are 300 pounds. Their role, and the rotation that we can have for the first time, to get those guys in there and get comfortable with our front, is going to play a big key, probably bigger than our linebackers right now.”
On Arizona’s COVID-19 testing regimen: “We’re just getting going with that. We ramped it up as we were getting ready to get start getting into the season. I’ve been tested a couple, three times over the last couple of months. We’ve ramped up testing for our whole team as part of the Pac-12’s protocol to go ahead.”
On his positive test: “Unfortunately that happened. That’s the bad part, but the good part is I’m doing well. And so is my son. He’s had no symptoms. I go through a protocol with him every morning and he’s like, ‘no Dad, I just need something to eat.’ When you’re 16 it doesn’t really matter. It’s a weird deal, but we’re getting through it. I think we’re all just tired of sitting in the house for 10 or 12 days.”