Arizona has one week left in spring practice, and by the sounds of it those last few practices aren’t going to be easy.
“We are way away from where we want to be,” UA coach Jedd Fisch said after Saturday’s scrimmage inside Arizona Stadium. “Our goal right now is to try to find a way to get better. So we’ve got two long practices ahead of us. It’ll be full pads both Tuesday and Thursday. And I’m expecting us to be another two and a half hours out there to try and get better in everything we do.”
Fisch said Arizona ran about 115 plays on Saturday night, with the first-, second- and third-team offenses primarily squaring off against their defensive counterparts. Washington State transfer Jayden de Laura led the first unit on offense, throwing a couple touchdown passes while also showing off a handful of plays where he had to improvise after things broke down.
“Those plays always come up once or twice in the game,” de Laura said. “We’ve just been working on it at practice, trying to execute when those plays come up. And I feel like we did pretty good.”
Fisch said it would be a huge mistake for he and his offensive staff to make de Laura “play in a phone booth” and not allow him to freelance, when necessary. Knowing when is the right—and wrong—time to do that, though, is critical.
“The key is for us to be able to make sure we manage that, as well, that he knows kind of when to say when,” Fisch said. “When to give up on a play, when to necessarily understand what part of the field you’re in when you’re taking off. I think it’s just educating situational football. But there’s a certain gift for certain guys that they have, which is plays off schedule. He has that, so we have to be able to play within that.”
One of de Laura’s TDs was caught by freshman wide receiver Tetairoa McMillan, who according to Fisch had his best practice of the spring. Most the evening, though, Arizona’s secondary seemed to win the majority of the one-on-one battles.
“Now that we’re at the end of week three, we’ve got it down pretty good,” cornerback Treydan Stukes said of defensive coordinator Johnny Nansen’s system.
While the defense is learning a new scheme, roughly half of Arizona’s first-team offense is new to the program.
“We got to find a way between April 2 and next Saturday to be better, and then really have a huge jump this summer,” Fisch said. “Excited for the way the guys plays and competed, but we’re a long way to go. Got a lot of young players out here, got a lot of new players out here, and just keep on trying to battle.”
Among the newcomers who are expected to contribute immediately this fall are running back Jonah Coleman and offensive lineman Joe Borjon. Both suffered leg injuries during the scrimmage, with Borjon wearing a boot when he came out of the locker room, but Fisch said he didn’t think either injury was serious.
About 80 players dressed for the scrimmage, with linebacker Jerry Roberts noticeably not in uniform. Fisch said it was precautionary for Roberts, who is coming off a broken leg suffered in mid-November, but he’s expected to play in Saturday’s Spring Game.
The 12 p.m. PT scrimmage, which will air on the Pac-12 Network, will feature Wildcat greats Lance Briggs and Tedy Bruschi coaching the Red and Blue teams, respectively.