If it felt like there was a cloak of secrecy surrounding the Arizona football program in recent years, you weren’t imagining things. Access to the Wildcats during the Kevin Sumlin era was limited, to put it simply.
New head coach Jedd Fisch is taking a much different approach as Arizona gets set to start spring practice in a few days, making good on one of the first promises he made following his hire in late December.
“The very first day, when I took the job, I told everybody that our spring practices are going to be open to the public, and that hasn’t changed,” Fisch said Wednesday during a luncheon for local media members at Arizona Stadium.
Media will be able to attend all 15 spring practices, which begin Tuesday and run through the Spring Game on April 24, and the plan is to allow a to-be-determined number of fans in.
“We’re obviously working through what the numbers can happen, based upon COVID and the county and all the issues regarding the public, and how many ... people, families we can have at practice,” Fisch said.
Arizona will work out three times a week, with Tuesday and Thursday practices starting at 4:30 p.m. and Saturday workouts at 11 a.m., with the first five practices at the Davis Sports Center and neighboring Dick Tomey Practice Fields. After that, Saturday practices will be inside Arizona Stadium, with the schedule calling for scrimmages on April 3, April 10 and April 17 as well as the Spring Game.
Fisch said he plans to talk to reporters after every practice to provide updates on how the team is adapting to the new coaching staff’s schemes and styles, with every position coach and each coordinator being available at least once during the spring. A selection of players from the corresponding position group will also be available after each practice.
While Sumlin had a “No Freshmen” policy when it came to interviews—which is why Grant Gunnell never answered questions in 2019 and Will Plummer has yet to do a media scrum—Fisch said he’s only keeping freshmen off limits until after they’ve been through spring practice or fall camp, whichever is their first experience with the program.
Some newcomers here for spring, most arriving in June
Arizona’s roster will have a lot of new faces for 2021, but only a few are on campus and will be part of spring practice. Offensive lineman JT Hand and running back Stevie Rocker Jr. are the only high school signees already enrolled, while from the transfer crop we’ll get our first look at ex-Washington State quarterback Gunner Cruz, former Northwestern running back Drake Anderson, former Notre Dame cornerback Isaiah Rutherford, ex-Northwestern safety Gunner Maldonado and former UNLV tight end Alex Lines, a previously unreported addition.
Fisch said the remainder of Arizona’s 2021 class will arrive on June 7, a group that includes ex-South Florida quarterback Jordan McCloud. He said Arizona has one remaining scholarship available but “we don’t know where that’s going to go.”
All told, Fisch said about 90 players will be on the spring roster, including a few who are injured and won’t participate.
QBs will split ‘about 100 reps’ each practice
With McCloud not set to arrive until the summer, Arizona’s quarterback competition won’t get decided during the spring. But a clear pecking order among those currently on the roster could be established before the 15 practices are up.
Fisch said he plans to have about 100 reps each day for quarterbacks in the team periods, with “at least three to four quarterbacks” splitting those while the other passers can get work in via drills. As spring progresses, though, “who is being the most productive, who is doing the best, who’s got the best understanding of the scheme, that person will get more and more reps.
“We have a pretty significant QB room, I think we’ll probably have somewhere between six to eight guys,” Fisch said.