The Jedd Fisch era of Arizona football begins Friday when the Wildcats will open fall camp. With that day approaching quickly, the first-time head coach oozed enthusiasm at a press conference with local reporters on Wednesday.
“It’s an opportunity for me to live my dream and hopefully do everything I can to help our team live theirs,” Fisch said inside the Davis Sports Center.
Here’s what else Fisch discussed during his 30-minute presser.
On the team’s overall health and vaccination rate heading into training camp: “Our team is in a very good place right now. They’re very healthy. I expect to have 118 players the first day of training camp, and I expect them to be pretty close to almost all of them participating give and take a couple of them here or there, which is really based upon how well they trained in June and July to allow that to happen. Our strength and conditioning coach has done an amazing job, Tyler Owens and his staff, and then our training staff has done a great job of getting them ready to go.”
On the team’s COVID vaccination success: “I would just say that we’re healthy in regards to COVID. We are extremely high vaccination rate. I believe we’re at 115 out of 118. So it’s pretty cool that that’s where our team is and every member of our staff. So to be able to have that, we’re very proud of that. That gives us a competitive advantage in my mind, as we should not miss any time as a football team due to COVID. Obviously if somebody tests positive on a breakthrough, then the rest of the team does not have to quarantine because they’re vaccinated. And that’s a huge part of it. So we’re excited. Our team is ready to go. Our team is healthy.”
On the atmosphere expected for training camp: “As everybody knows, we will be having what I hope to be as close to an NFL experience at a college town as possible. We will be having six training camp practices that will be surrounded by a fan fest experience. The experience will be right out here behind our practice field and there should be everything from jump houses to opportunities to throw footballs to 40-yard dash to face painting to caricatures and everything in between. Our goal is to get the entire Tucson community to come out and embrace the experience like they do at an NFL camp. We’ll have a DJ there, we’ll have music. And obviously it’s free, and then practice is wide open after that. If it’s a morning practice, we’ll have our players sign autographs. Afterwards, by position group I’ll put that out on my social media on who’s going when. If it’s an evening practice, we will not stay after to sign autographs. I don’t see why it would be very different from an NFL town when you can pack in thousands to watch a practice for a training camp.”
On the theme of fall camp: “I would say that the first thing I would tell them is that no one’s ever drowned in their own sweat. So, camp is going to be hard, camp is going to be tough. And we’re going do everything we can to create an environment of competition. All of our values and all our standards and all of our messages hasn’t changed. Daily we talk about it being personal. We talk about our five values as a program to raise up with respect, accountability, innovation, selflessness, and enthusiasm. We tell our players that competition is the central theme of our program.”
On the battle for the No. 1 jersey: “I’m not a big jersey number guy, it’s kind of never been anything that I’ve been really excited about. But there were about nine different players on our team that asked for the number one jersey. So, as we talked as a staff on how to handle that, we said, ‘well how about you earn it.’ And that comes from offseason, academics, community service, strength and conditioning and training camp mentality. And if you’ve won on all four levels there, then you’ll have a chance to take that number one jersey. So we got nine guys in the sweepstakes right now. I told them, if someone changes their mind and they want to join it, they can join it, but they’ve got to be high GPA, high community service hours, never miss a workout, improve tremendously on their strength, drop their body fat, and compete in training camp.”
On the physicality level of training camp: “Very physical. If we can, that would be the goal. We understand it’s about mental and physical toughness and we have to establish that, especially if we’re going to run the football the way we want to run the football. We want to play from under center. The way Don Brown plays defense. We want to be smart about being physical. We want to know how to stop at the whistle, but we’re going to tackle, we’re going to wear full pads as many days as they allow us to wear full pads, and we’ll wear shoulder pads as many days as they allow us to wear shoulder pads. So, I’m not expecting to shy away from a very tough camp. We expect to be on the practice field a long time, every day, so be ready as you’re planning your days and hopefully we can get ourselves to a spot where we can build some calluses. And if we could do that then we got a chance.”
On when he’ll announce the starting quarterback: “When we know who our starter is, you’ll know who our starter is. I’m not really into the gamesmanship to be quite honest. I think the more gamesmanship you have, the more your team thinks that you’re playing games with them and I’m much more into open honest communication. When we know who our starter, is they’ll know who our starter is, and then you guys will know. We’ll just do it in that order.” ”
On South Florida quarterback transfer Jordan McCloud: “He’s got a really nice touch, when he throws the football, and he’s able to throw the ball from in the pocket and outside of the pocket, and he’s able to make some plays that are off schedule, which you really need to do nowadays really at all levels. Certainly an ours. He’s able to drop the ball in there, and he has experience. Where the other guys don’t have starting experience, he does. He threw five or six touchdowns in a football game against Central Florida so a rivalry game and he can go out there and go for 470 yards and six touchdowns, I think, so he’s got some moxie. That all showed up on the film. So, looking forward to watching him compete. We will go a third, a third, a third reps for the first five practices, and then we’ll reevaluate where we’re at at that point.”
On other position battles to watch for in camp: “The canned answer would be all the position group battles, but there will be some good ones at running back...which is a unique one similar to quarterback where there’s only one that will be in on the field at a time. The other battles, I would say keep an eye on is the safety battle. We’ve got a lot of guys that are competing to start at safety. Right now I would say there’s probably four or five that believe they can compete and start there. And probably our linebackers and pass rushers, so it’ll be a pretty good all the way through. I think we have a pretty good idea who’s going to be our starting three receivers, give and take. We’ll compete a little bit and see where Jamarye (Joiner)’s health is.”
On the emergence of Name, Image and Likeness (NIL): “The NIL is really interesting. First thing I told our team is you better win or no one will care. That’s the first thing and then the second thing is you better be good as a player or no one’s going to pay you. But once you get over those two simplistic approaches there, what Arizona has done with the Arizona Edge program is we’ve created in-house our ability to not only have a marketing that’s called branch for our players, but also a legal branch, also a financial branch. We’re able to work together with Eller, we’re able to work with our law school, we’re able to work with our communications school, and we’re able to work with our advertising. To use all those branches that have all been brought together from Brent Blaylock who is kind of heading it up, it allows us to really have a lot of arms and reach. The next thing we have to do is help our players market themselves which is why we’re building a TV studio in our football office. We’re hiring a team reporter who we’ll announce on Friday. We’re going to hire a coordinator of social media who we’ll be taking applications for. we’ll be hiring probably a few other positions to enable us to help promote the brand of our players. So then when that occurs, they’ll have more opportunities. As we can help educate them through the Edge program and then market them through our own upstairs.”
On the Arizona Bowl Barstool Sports partnership and how the UA can use that to its advantage: “El Presidente (Dave Portnoy) is very famous in the world of who we’re recruiting. We’re recruiting the 16-18 year old kids, and then you have your transfer portal of 18 to 22 year olds. Barstool Sports is extremely highly viewed on everybody’s Instagram and Twitter accounts. So when you have that happening in your hometown, in your home stadium that you have the Arizona Bowl named after it, it is an incredible opportunity for us to just continue to leverage the NIL aspect of it. We can try to marry in the ability to have Barstool now on campus, bring them back, do some pizza competition, whatever it is that we need to do to make sure that we can really work together with them. And my goal obviously is to roll out the red and blue carpet next time they’re on campus and get them to be a part of what we’re doing.”