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‘Not much’ separation between Gunner Cruz, Will Plummer in Arizona quarterback competition

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Arizona v Washington
Will Plummer
Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

If you were somehow expecting Arizona’s quarterback competition to be decided in the spring, or at least have a clear leader going into the summer, you’re out of luck.

Good thing is, Jedd Fisch wasn’t expecting either of those things.

“I think we were going in not thinking that was probably going to happen in the spring, because neither one had a foundation in our system,” Fisch said Tuesday, referring to freshmen Gunner Cruz and Will Plummer. “For them, this has been like a massive immersion of football going into their heads.”

Fisch said “currently there’s not much” separation between Cruz, the Washington State transfer, and Plummer, who started one game and appeared in three for Arizona in 2020. The pair have taken turns running with the first- and second-team offensive units, with each showing flashes of promise but also plenty of growing pains.

“That’s very normal when you talk about a new offensive system,” Fisch said. “I have a lot more familiar with this system than they do, so I would hope that I would see it a little quicker than they can. My goal, and Coach (Jimmie) Dougherty’s goal, is to be able to get them to see it at our pace. Getting them to see the offense like a coach on the field.”

While Plummer was with the team a year ago, Cruz didn’t arrive on campus until the first day of spring ball in mid-March.

“I got here and, first time I get into the huddle I look around and I’m like, wow, I really know maybe two of these guys’ names,” he said.

Recognition of coverage and knowing where to go with the ball are two areas Fisch says he’s seen the most improvement in Cruz and Plummer, but he wants more.

“They need to see it quicker, get it out faster,” he said. “We’re going against a complicated defense.”

That would be Don Brown’s pressure-heavy attack, which Plummer believes has provided a big learning curve for he and the rest of the QBs.

“I’d probably say over 50 percent of the time they’re bringing at least five” rushers, Plummer said. “They’re bringing guys from everywhere.”

Arizona has two spring practices left, including Saturday’s Spring Game, which Fisch said will have roughly 200 former players in attendance. Then comes offseason weight training, during which another crop of players will arrive in early June.

That includes Jordan McCloud, a redshirt sophomore who is wrapping up his degree at South Florida. McCloud has far more experience than Cruz or Plummer, having started 17 games for the Bulls in 2019-20.

Fisch said “we’ll roll the balls out again” when preseason camp begins in late July or early August, at which time the real QB competition will begin. Arizona will be able to have 29 practices ahead of the season opener against BYU in Las Vegas, but Fisch would prefer not to need all of them to figure out who he’ll have running the offense.

“We’ve got to make a decision at some point,” he said.