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What Jedd Fisch and Jayden de Laura said after Arizona football’s first spring scrimmage

jedd-fisch-jayden-de-laura-comments-arizona-wildcats-football-spring-practice-april-1-2023 Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Arizona football’s spring game is less than two weeks away and on Saturday the Wildcats held a tune-up scrimmage at Arizona Stadium. Afterwards, Arizona coach Jedd Fisch and quarterback Jayden de Laura addressed the media to discuss the Wildcats’ progress. Here’s what they said.

Fisch on his overall thoughts on the scrimmage: “Good scrimmage tonight. I think back to what it was like two years ago. It felt a little different tonight. I think we’ve gotten better as a football team. A lot of good stuff today on both offense and defense. We did a few things with the kicking game, but we’ll do more of that next week. We ran 98 plays today. We threw it 58 times and ran it 40. So we were able to get some good balance in there and do a lot of drills and see if we can keep getting better. First time out in the full scrimmage atmosphere so that was good to see. A couple of young guys popped, a couple of the older guys played good, and I’m looking forward to seeing the film and really seeing what it looks like.”

Fisch on de Laura compared to a year ago: “He’s so much more comfortable in the system. He understands what we’re trying to get done. And he’s continuing to improve and he’s really committed to getting better. His commitment and the quarterbacks commitment in general have been something unique from a year ago till now. They’re working very hard to understand the offense, and I think it’s showing in how they’re moving the ball.”

Fisch on his overall thoughts on the defense: “I love it in terms of how many guys that we’re able to evaluate. Spring football’s for evaluation. For us to be able to see (Kamuela Kaaihue) going in there and making plays and then Daniel (Heimuli) making plays, then Justin (Flowe) making plays and then obviously Jacob Manu, we held out tonight, but he’s been making plays all spring. He’ll be back Tuesday, I think. And then just being able to see so many linebackers are going through so many DBs are going through. You see (Charles) Yates getting better because of the amount of reps he’s taking. You see all the safeties. Genesis Smith making an interception to end red zone lockout with the one group. Just to to be able to see all these guys making plays around the field is great. We don’t need to make a decision on starting 11 anytime soon. So our goal is to see how many guys we can get ready to play.”

Fisch on Manu’s status: “His hand got dinged up a little bit but he’ll be fine. He should be back Tuesday.”

Fisch on Tanner McLachlan’s status: “I think he’s back Tuesday from what I understand. We’ve been holding him off for some soft tissue stuff. Those hamstrings can, you don’t want them to linger. So just little soft tissue deal and should be back Tuesday, hopefully.”

Fisch on getting Rob and Chris Gronkowski to serve as honorary head coaches for the spring game: “Yeah that was fun. I ran into (Rob Gronkowski) at a Super Bowl party in Phoenix and I caught him at a good moment, I think. I asked him if he would come back as our honorary coach and I said, ‘Well, let’s do Gronk v. Gronk this year.’ Wind up getting both guys. Boston Marathon is that day so Teddy (Bruschi) can’t come back for that. So we’ve got Gronk vs. Gronk. And then to get Chris McAlister and Antoine Cason here is great for us. I don’t think Chris has been back for a very long time. Chris was with me at Baltimore. So that was great. I think we have 12,000 tickets out already for the spring game, not including the students. So I would have said my goal at 15 but I think I’m setting the goal at 20,000 for the spring game this year. I think we’re going to try to try to get that going.”

Fisch on Jonah Savaiinaea lining up at right tackle: “That’s a legitimate look for us to see how he does there. We’re trying to figure out the offensive line with Jordan (Morgan). Not having Jordan all spring, we kind of know where Jordan is gonna play, so we want to be able to see what it looks like at replacing Paiton (Fears) at right tackle. We’ve got some young guys coming in but they’re not here yet other than Rhino (Tapa’atoutai) so we’ve got three tackle bodies coming in. Right now with the numbers we got to see what Jonah can do, and Jonah’s playing really well at tackle. He’s a gifted offensive lineman.”

Fisch on how the offensive line is shaping out: “We’ve got some flexibility. It’s March or I guess it’s April 1 now. As we’re going through it, we just want to evaluate the players. It’s not year one anymore. Year two was everybody was new. Now we’re looking at year three of trying to figure out, okay, where are we in this build to be able to understand, okay, where does everybody fit in? And can we figure out is there a best combination that we could go with?”

Fisch on the wide receiver rotation: “I would be surprised if Jacob (Cowing) and TMac (Tetairoa McMillan) aren’t two of the three guys in on every snap, so it would be probably more of a rotation on that third spot. At this time, I would say probably we’ll have more guys rotating through but you never know what can happen there if somebody steps up, My whole thing is this, I’m not used to a lot of rotation. When I’ve coached in college, we haven’t had a lot of rotation. And when I coached in pro ball, we didn’t have a lot of rotation. What we had was, we develop, probably four wideouts to be really special. Then when they were moving on, then we had the next four, and then the next four or the next three, whatever it might be and continue to develop young guys to get better, rookies to get better, but not substitute a lot. Trying to keep Jayden on the same page with his wideouts.”

Fisch on why Arizona is using game uniforms for spring practice: “Actually, that’s kind of a thing that we tried to get going the first couple of years. We were wearing old game uniforms the first couple of years, but Nike cooperated with us this year and let us wear the game jerseys from last year and the year before. I like them to look good in practice, look sharp. Easier to see the numbers. That blue on red was very challenging when you’re watching the tape, so now to be able to see the blue on white really helps us.”

Fisch on word that Arizona might be getting no uniforms: “Oh, no, don’t talk to me about that. Maybe, but that hasn’t hit my desk yet. (Laughing).”

Fisch on whether Arizona is on schedule: “I think our assistant coaches would tell you that they might feel that we’re on schedule and that I feel we’re behind schedule. I always want to see us get better and always see can we be better, can we be more disciplined, can we make better plays, can we make less mistakes. But then I don’t know how you judge that because you want the offense to do everything right, but then the defense to do everything right, so how do you even know what’s happening when you’re sitting there playing each other? So I think the biggest thing for us is we’re more connected as a team, we do more things together as a team, our team loves being out there, yesterday cheering on the other sports. So us being great teammates is really something that we’re ahead of schedule on, and I hope that that kind of parlays into some more wins.”

Fisch on the Division I Council rejecting a proposal that would have allowed analysts and other off-field staffers to coach during practice: “I was very surprised at that. I think it’s a shame. There’s so many great opportunities for coaches, young and old, to be able to continue to help the players develop. The fact that that didn’t pass was surprising and disappointing. At the same time, they still have their roles within the building. They still can obviously coach the coaches and work with the coaches and be very involved on the field as a cheerleader and as a motivator. Right now, we don’t have to worry about it because coach Hundley only is on IR. I just think you got to look at some of the NFL staffs that I’ve coached on we had 30-35 coaches and a lot of places and we have a 53-man roster. That limits you to 11 coaches, and then four GAs on a 115-man roster is just disappointing. So it is what it is, hopefully that rule will change soon. I know all the head coaches feel the same way I do that I’ve talked to, so maybe one of these days we’ll be able to allow these kids to continue to get coached by as many coaches as we can.”

de Laura on his assessment of the offense through the first weeks of spring practice: “I’m going to go back and compare it to last time last year around this time, I feel everybody’s more comfortable. Me, Jacob T-Mac. We got one year under our belt. The o-line got more than multiple years. Jonah is a veteran now. I would say he’s veteran. He’s got to be more vocal but all in all, I feel like we’re understanding the plays more to where we can communicate on a different level than we were last year at this time.”

de Laura on noticing the offensive line moving parts: “We go over, whenever we have team meetings and stuff, we’re going to try this out. Just moving everybody around. We have a pretty versatile o-line. Multiple guys can play multiple positions.”

de Laura on what allows Jonah Savaiinaea to make the transition to right tackle: “I would say now is just how his body has changed from high school to now. In high school, he was still young. He was a sophomore. So his body really wasn’t developed. Now he’s fit. He looks really solid. He can move. He’s athletic but he’s got good feet under him.”

de Laura on why Malachi Riley has impressed him so far: “I remember the first day, I told him I was like, ‘You better be ready, because if you mess up, I promise I’m just gonna rip you one time.’ And he’s like, ‘Okay, bring it on. Like I want to learn, I want to learn.’ So like I didn’t rip him, you know what I mean. It was just to see what he said. And I was like, I like this guy from the start. So he always came in, day in and day out working. We’d come out 20 minutes into the locker room before practice and he’s right there reading the whole script, going over the plays. I’m like ‘You nervous?’ He’s like, ‘Nah, I’m just getting it down to I don’t mess up.’ Then then a couple of times he’s slipped up on a couple plays, but I was like, ‘Bro you’re a freshman. It’s good. There’s nerves. You know what I mean? I was there last year. I wasn’t perfect last year at this time, too, but he always comes in and works, ask questions and he performs when the ball is thrown to him, too.”

de Laura on who on defense is standing out: “I feel like there’s just so many guys on the defense. From the DB room, Yates has been doing really good. (Treydan) Stukes been doing good playing a different position this year. (Isaiah Taylor) stepped up. Dalton (Johnson), when he comes in. Gunner (Maldondo) been playing good. Then even the new guys, the linebackers: Daniel, Flowe, Ammon Allen’s been doing good. Jacob Manu, even though he’s out right now, he’s been really coming along as a leader. And the D-line, I would just say the whole unit. We can sub in guys now and it’s like wow, like how are we going to block these guys?”

de Laura on how the defense compares to last year: “I would say last spring was more the older guys, those guys played together, but it was a different defensive scheme. And this year, I feel like just everybody just got something nasty to them. So I mean, it’s fun. It makes practice fun. It’s not just offense competing. It’s just like butting heads, good on good the whole time.”

de Laura on who has benefited with Tanner McLachlan out: “I would say the whole tight end room. Everybody has been getting reps. They’ve been splitting reps at practice. (Roberto Miranda) has been seeing some playing time. Tyler Powell, he’s a giant. He’s been doing good. And then Keyan (Burnett), I told Keyan, ‘You got to step it up this year, man, we’re gonna need you this year.’ So I would say after watching him this past two, three weeks, he’s just been amazing. That’s just a credit to their hard work and Coach (Jordan) Paopao’s coaching.”

de Laura on his time management: “I would say time management, it’s really not as hard for me anymore because I would say after this going into my fourth season, it’s kind of just repetitive stuff. It’s not anything new to me. It’s kind of things that now I can push stuff aside that is not necessary for me to worry about. School, football, go home, now I got my dog. School, football, go home, my dog.”

de Laura on what stands out about the football facility upgrades: “Everybody else might get jealous, but the quarterback room we just got a coffee machine a couple of days ago. But that’s clutch so we don’t need to walk all the way down the building. Other than that, it’s just all the history in the past of UofA. I really wasn’t one that was in depth with knowing that tradition and everything. So just having everything up there. I haven’t read every single thing out there, But I learn something new every day I walk down that hall.”

de Laura on Justin Flowe’s intensity: “A lot of energy. You see a lot of guys doing that (using fists to show energy) that is because of him. He’s always making everybody laugh. He’s always the same person every day and that’s what I respect of him. You’re not getting one guy and a different guy every day. I really respect that he’s a hard worker. He’s got a professional mindset when he comes into the building.”