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Arizona still in ‘information gathering stage’ of QB competition

Will Plummer and Gunner Cruz
Photo by Ryan Kelapire

Sunday’s scrimmage seemed to suggest there was finally some separation in Arizona’s quarterback competition. Gunner Cruz was efficient with the first string and Will Plummer worked with the second team.

Tuesday morning’s practice brought things back to square one as USF transfer Jordan McCloud was the one receiving first-team reps. Passing game coordinator Jimmie Dougherty said afterwards that the staff is “still in the information gathering stage” of the race.

“I thought we did a lot of really good things in the scrimmage, and it was kind of spaced out somewhat evenly,” Dougherty said. “As we looked at it, it’s a good-bad. I mean, yeah, there’s not separation right now, but a lot of guys were doing a lot of things really well. We came out of that scrimmage feeling like guys were really accurate with the football and we created some big plays, some explosives. It wasn’t perfect, there’s some things we had to clean up, but it’s just been so close because everybody will have a day where they look great.”

Dougherty said all three QBs will be given a chance to establish a rhythm with the first-team offense in practice this week. Then, he hopes, head coach Jedd Fisch will have seen enough to be comfortable naming a starter.

Fisch said Sunday that he thinks Arizona will know who its QB1 is by the time the team scrimmages again Saturday. He has said he wants to name a starter sooner rather than later so the QBs don’t have to keep splitting reps.

“Your starting quarterback is only getting 33 percent of the reps, think of it that way,” Fisch said last week. “We just can’t keep having that.”

The coaches have done what they can to try to accelerate the competition, such as wetting footballs in practice to create adversity. While they want their quarterbacks to make explosive plays, Dougherty reiterated that consistency and avoiding turnovers take priority in the race.

“It’s decision making, it’s presence at the line of scrimmage, making sure we’re getting in the right plays, it’s who’s moving us down the field. Are we scoring points? Are we having success?” Dougherty said. “No matter what’s happening around us we got guys that can make plays on the perimeter, in the backfield, all over the place. We just got to find the guy that can operate it and put us in good positions more consistently.”

McCloud threw two interceptions in Tuesday’s practice, which Dougherty said has been uncharacteristic of him thus far.

“Gotta take a look and see what happened there,” Dougherty said. “Like I said, we’ll kind of keep on going through the process, let somebody else get that opportunity tomorrow.”

That could be Cruz, who is working on making quicker decisions with the ball. He took at least three sacks in Sunday’s scrimmage.

“When your drop gets to the top of the drop, it’s one-hitch timing to this route, it’s two-hitch timing to that route, it’s take off and scramble,” Dougherty said. “You can’t stay back there in real football. It’s not 7-on-7 where you’re just patting the ball.”

No matter who ends up being named the starter, Dougherty harped on the need for the other quarterbacks to continue to prepare as if they will play.

“You can’t wait till that opportunity comes to get ready,” Dougherty said. “You gotta be ready prior to that, so you just gotta keep building the callus as we say and keep working through whatever comes your way.”