Stevie Rocker Jr. has appeared in four games so far for Arizona, which means he’s still eligible to be redshirted and retain his freshman year eligibility. But that’s not going to happen, not with how the Wildcats keep increasing the local product’s involvement in the gameplan each week.
“Stevie will continue to play all season,” UA coach Jedd Fisch said last week. “We believe he can help us, we believe that he’s developing into a player that immediately can make an impact.”
Rocker, from Tucson suburb Oro Valley, played a career-high 17 snaps in last weekend’s 34-16 loss to UCLA. That included seven on kick return and three where he lined up as a receiver, while the remainder were at fullback, a position he’s transitioned into since the season began.
“They kind of just threw it at me, kind of like, hey, we’re gonna put you here to get you more opportunities onto the field,” Rocker said. “And I kind of just took it and ran with it. I didn’t shy away from it, obviously not gonna say no to a chance on the field, so I was like okay I’m ready for whatever I got to do to at least help us get a better chance of winning. I’m gonna do whatever it takes.”
Rocker came to the UA as the No. 96 running back prospect in the 2021 recruiting class. He enrolled early and began spring practice at 185 pounds but is now at 200, hoping to get his 6-foot frame to 215 to 220 by next season.
He expects to be back at his traditional tailback spot in the future, but for now he’s making the most of his role, which included being the lead blocker on a pitch to Drake Anderson against UCLA that resulted in a 15-yard gain.
“I was excited when they called that because I like being a part of impact plays, whether I’m getting the ball or not, whether I make a simple block that gets them to score,” he said. “I’ve always liked to do that stuff so I can just say like I was a part of that play. Since I’ll probably transition back to tailback at some point, so I feel like it’ll help my transition to tailback more, because then I’ll start understanding a little bit more of how everything’s gonna flow in the game.”
Rocker said the move hasn’t been that difficult, and not just because he had prior experience at fullback way back when he played youth football for the Marana Broncos. Ironically, last Saturday’s game saw two local youth teams square off during halftime, an event Rocker participated in at Arizona Stadium when he was 8.
“I remember that vividly, I scored a touchdown in that game,” he said. “It was before the Lowell-Stevens facility was there, before we had turf. It felt like forever ago but it really wasn’t that long (ago).”
Rocker had two carries for 12 yards against UCLA and added two receptions for 27 yards. For the season Rocker has seven offensive touches for 57 yards.
Anderson and Michael Wiley continue to be the main ball carriers, though Wiley’s second fumble of the season last week could open the door for Rocker to get a few more opportunities.
“He’s just a young pup, but when he’s out in space and has had the balls hands he’s done some dynamic things,” offensive coordinator Brennan Carroll said. “We’re expecting a couple more of those things.”