What to watch for: Arizona's spring game
Rich Rodriguez will be entering his second season in Tucson and has yet to play in Arizona Stadium during the spring. Construction is the reason - and a fitting metaphor for a Wildcats program that is building toward the goal of an elusive Rose Bowl appearance.
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Arizona's spring game Saturday at Kindall/Sancet Field at 1 p.m. PT will be broadcast on Pac-12 Arizona with live look-ins from the Pac-12 Network. Here are several story lines to watch for:
Who winds up under center?
The conclusion of spring practice very likely won't mark the end of the quarterback battle to replace Matt Scott, but it could go a long way in setting the table for fall camp. By all accounts, B.J. Denker has done well with the pads on this spring and figures to be taking snaps with the number ones come August. He has the most experience having taken some significant snaps last year and has been fairly consistent at getting better this spring. A big spring game - he threw four touchdowns and an interception in a recent scrimmage - would put some distance between himself and the pack.
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Still, the race is by no means over. Javelle Allen is still young and adding things to his plate with Rodriguez's system, but there's clearly plenty of talent there to be the starter and a spark plug for the team. Louisiana Tech transfer Nick Isham has been banged up at times this spring and is still learning the offense, but he showed flashes of what he could do for the Bulldogs earlier in his career. He's won games (for new Cal coach Sonny Dykes, no less) and can't be counted out.
Former USC signal caller and recent transfer Jesse Scroggins hasn't done much this spring after offseason surgery, but is getting back onto the field. He won't leave a big impression on coaches in terms of what he can do with the ball in his hands quite yet, so this summer is big for him.
Though he may be on the sidelines, incoming freshman quarterback Anu Solomon won't be able to get reps in until he enrolls. But Solomon certainly has all the tools to be a success in the system and will be given a chance to win the job.
[Related: Arizona 2013 football schedule]
New look at tight end
Remember when Rob Gronkowski wore the Arizona uniform? After a lack of production - okay, none at all - from the tight end position last season, Rodriguez and the offensive staff are hoping 2013 will be an added weapon for their new quarterback. Terrence Miller has turned a few heads so far this spring, and being healthy certainly is a reason for that. After sliding over from wide receiver, he's still a bit on the thin side but has the frame (and a summer in the weight room) to bulk up before the opener. He's fast, runs good routes and has sure hands but has to learn the nuances of having a hand in the ground. There's a lot of optimism that Miller will have a breakout season with defenses having to pay so much attention to Austin Hill on the outside.
Michael Cooper was a backup at the spot last season and has a leg up on knowing what to do at the position, even if he doesn't have much playing time. He has good size and is probably the best blocker at the spot, so there's little doubt he's in the rotation. Some questions remain about his game and whether he can show what he needs to earn the starting spot, so a big spring game could go a long way. Former quarterback Josh Kern has also gotten some reps and impressed those around the program for how quickly he's gotten up to speed.
[Related video: Rich Rodriguez signing day interview]
When Jeff Casteel took over the defense last year he didn't have a ton to work with. There were even a few questions among the coaching staff as to whether they had the sufficient bodies to fill out the 3-3-5 alignment (several walk-ons played). During their second spring practice as a staff , there are fewer questions. But depth remains an issue.
Jake Fischer is the leader of the defense and one of three returning linebackers, but he'll have to push the players next to - and behind - him, including Dakota Conwell. Richard Morrison, converted from receiver to defensive back, flashed onto a lot of people's radars with an interception during the last scrimmage as. Dwight Melvin is looking to make an impact on the defensive line after a redshirt year. The list goes on for Casteel's unit as they hope to find some names to fill out the two-deep and create some rotations.
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