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Jedd Fisch discusses tackling, the quarterback competition and a ‘49 percent scrimmage’ after Arizona’s spring practice

arizona-wildcats-jedd-fisch-spring-practice-scrimmage-tackling-easter-cruz-plummer-2021 Courtesy Arizona Athletics

The Arizona Wildcats are officially one-third of the way through spring practices, with five of 15 workouts completed under new coach Jedd Fisch and his staff. The last three have included players in full pads, but they’ll take things up a notch on Saturday with a scrimmage inside Arizona Stadium.

Well, at least for part of practice.

Fisch said Thursday the Wildcats will have a “49 percent scrimmage” during the tail end of the roughly 3-hour practice, doing individual drills for the first 90 minutes and then scrimmaging the final 89 minutes. That restriction is per NCAA rules, Fisch said.

“We’re able to scrimmage 49 percent of practice, then starting next week we’ll be able to go full scrimmage the next three Saturdays,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll have 1,500 people here on Saturday and they see a better showing than necessarily parts of today.”

The increase to 1,500 is up from the 200 that are allowed to attend practices on the Dick Tomey Practice Fields west of the indoor facility. Arizona had previously announced it could welcome as many as 5,000 fans for the Spring Game, set for April 24.

Make tackling great again

Another NCAA restriction as far as spring practice goes is the number of practices in which tackling can happen, with only eight of the 15 workouts allowed to include this oh-so-important part of football. Fisch said Arizona has five tackling practices remaining, and he plans to make the most of those opportunities for his players to hit each other and remember what it’s like to be hit.

“I think that’s what you have to do,” he said. “We need to tackle, we need to break tackles, otherwise we’ll fumble the ball. There is no preseason in college football, so you get no opportunity to get tackled. As we get closer to the season we’ll pull away from tackling.”

For anyone who has blocked it out of their memories, Arizona has been quite abysmal in the tackling department in recent years.

Cruz and Plummer the clear leaders in QB race

With South Florida transfer Jordan McCloud not joining the team until June, don’t expect any decisions on who Arizona’s quarterback will be before then. But there has been some separation among the six passers who are spring camp, with freshmen Gunner Cruz and Will Plummer standing out so far.

“I think they’ve moved the ball the most,” Fisch said of Cruz and Plummer. “They’ve completed the most kind of passes. It starts at the walkthrough. We’re rewarding them.”

Cruz got the majority of the first-team reps on Thursday, with Fisch saying he wants Plummer to get a bigger share on Saturday.

Wildcats giving back on Friday

Arizona will have meetings on Friday evening, but during the day the team will spend time at the Center of Opportunity, a homeless shelter on Tucson’s south side. Fisch said his players will help the shelter prepare for its Easter celebration and also help set up the facility’s weight room.

“A huge part of our program is giving back to the community, and then also giving to our players,” Fisch said. Obviously it’s an important part of our players’ development as we’re trying to build not just a program of professional athletes but professionals in general.”

Fisch said this week’s We Educate Wednesday speaker to the team was Barry Scheck of the Innocence Project

Yesterday we had We Educate Wednesday and we brought in Barry Scheck from the Innocence Project, a nonprofit organization that efforts to exonerate wrongfully convicted people. Scheck is best known for being part of OJ Simpson’s “Dream Team” of lawyers during his murder trial in the early 1990s, an event that Fisch managed to sneak into when he was a law student.