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Jordan McCloud confident entering Arizona’s QB competition despite learning curve

Photo by Ryan Kelapire

Of the three Arizona quarterbacks competing for the starting job this fall, Jordan McCloud has the most ground to make up. Unlike Gunner Cruz and Will Plummer, the South Florida transfer was not with the Wildcats for spring practice. He was still completing his degree in Tampa.

So when Arizona opened preseason camp Friday, approximately one month from the season opener vs. BYU, McCloud was throwing in front of his new coaches for the first time. His takeaway?

“It was a great day one,” McCloud said. “There’s a few plays that I wish I had back, but everyday we just got to get better.”

The Wildcats practiced a lot of red zone situations, forcing their QBs to throw into tight coverages and make quick reads. Head coach Jedd Fisch said McCloud and the rest of the QBs were “OK,” adding that they missed too many throws and battled some early jitters.

“I have no doubt that Jordan throws a pretty ball and it spins nicely out of his hand,” Fisch said. “He moves well in the pocket, but all of them I could sense were just a little bit hesitant on pulling the trigger and that’s probably pretty normal on the first day.”

While McCloud is new to Arizona and its offense, he doesn’t feel too far behind Cruz and Plummer. McCloud was able to study the offense virtually during the offseason and is used to learning new plays. McCloud noted that he has had five offensive coordinators in the last five years. And some of Arizona’s concepts—like taking snaps from under center—he even ran in high school.

“At the end of the day, across football, concepts are the same,” McCloud said. “It’s just a different language.”

If there’s one thing McCloud has working to his advantage, it’s his game experience. Cruz, who transferred in from Washington State in the spring, and Plummer only have four career games and one career start under their belts. Combined.

McCloud started seven games at USF last season alone. He completed 62 percent of his passes for 1,341 yards, nine touchdowns and two interceptions. The year before, he started 10 games for the Bulls and threw for 1,429 yards, 12 TDs and eight picks.

“He threw five or six touchdowns in a game against Central Florida—a rivalry game—so he’s got some moxie,” Fisch said. “That all showed up on the film, so I’m looking forward to watching him compete.”

McCloud said his best traits are his accuracy, poise, leadership, decisiveness and ability to improvise. Fisch said on media day that McCloud has a “quiet confidence” about him. That could serve him well in the QB race since UA coaches have said execution is the No. 1 thing they’re looking for in a starter.

“The game slows down for you as you get older,” said McCloud, a fourth-year redshirt sophomore. “You’re able to stay in the pocket, make the throw that you need. When you’re younger, you want to get out, you’re rushing and stuff like that.”

McCloud declined to go into detail about why he left USF, but he said Arizona was one of the top schools he was interested in when he threw his name in the transfer portal.

McCloud said he sent a direct message to quarterbacks coach Jimmie Dougherty and the two chatted over Zoom. Then McCloud spoke with Fisch and was impressed by his background coaching quarterbacks like Josh Rosen at UCLA and Jared Goff with the Rams.

“His offense is great, pro style,” McCloud said. “God put it in my heart to come here.”

The Tampa native said he’s wanted to play in the Pac-12 ever since he was a kid. McCloud liked watching Oregon and Marcus Mariota and thinks he fits well in the conference’s style of play.

“Fast and physical,” McCloud described it.

McCloud is looking forward to Arizona’s road game at USC on Oct. 30, saying that kids dream of playing at the L.A. Coliseum where legends like Reggie Bush once starred. It remains to be seen if McCloud will be the Wildcats’ starting QB that night.

“I have a lot of faith,” McCloud said. “Just trust in your abilities and do what you were taught to do. If you prepare right you’re going to be alright.”