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Kevin Sumlin outlines how Arizona football will ‘gradually’ return amid coronavirus crisis

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arizona-wildcats-football-practice-2020-preseason-OTA-coronavirus-schedule-meetings Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

College football players began returning to campuses earlier this week, but the Arizona Wildcats won’t start coming back for another week or so. The Pac-12 set June 15 as the earliest date that the league’s student-athletes could start using campus facilities for voluntary workouts.

Arizona coach Kevin Sumlin is anxiously awaiting that date, as well as every Monday for about a month since the Wildcats won’t be returning all at once.

“We’re going to return gradually, really with a phased-in situation,” Sumlin said Friday on the Pac-12 Perspective podcast hosted by Ashley Adamson and Yogi Roth. “Between 15 to 20 players every week, start up small groups of strength and conditioning, instead of having everyone back here at the same time.”

Additional groups are expected to start working out June 15, June 22 and June 29, with freshmen coming in by July 6.

When players return they’ll be met with what Sumlin called “the new normal,” everything from weekly COVID-19 testing to mandatory mask use as well as signs about social distancing and virus symptom awareness posted all over. And that doesn’t include all the extra steps the coaching and support staff have to do for something as rudimentary as a team meal.

“You can’t put 100 guys in a room and have them eat right now,” Sumlin said. “Every day there is a challenge. That’s why we’re doing it gradually.”

At this point, voluntary activities are all that’s allowed. No decisions have been made on when actual preseason practices can begin, not to mention how games will be handled when the season starts.

“There’s so many things that are going on with the planning phase right now for practicing that the game seems a little bit far away,” Sumlin said, though he did admit he’s watched game film on opening foe Hawaii and some of Arizona’s other scheduled opponents. “I’ve looked at a lot of opponent tape, particularly the last two weeks. We have plenty of time on our hands.”

Sumlin said he expects the Wildcats’ 2020 season to start on time, Aug. 29 at home against Hawaii, though to him that’s still so far off.

“We’re planning for football as usual, but we’re consumed with the day-to-day operations of what that looks like up until kickoff,” he said.