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August 1, 2012

Rodriguez: Show up in shape or 'we'll have a big problem'

Six months after the Arizona football team was heavily criticized by their new head coach for their poor physical condition heading into the spring, the Wildcats can expect a conditioning test after the first practice of fall camp, Rich Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez, who met with the local media Wednesday afternoon as the players officially reported for fall camp at McKale Center, did not want to elaborate on what the test would contain in order to keep an element of surprise for the players and keep their focus more on the practice.

But he did offer one clear warning.

"The first practice will tell me a lot because our practices will be pretty fast," Rodriguez said. "Guys that struggle through mightily probably tells us they didn't do a whole lot this summer.

"Those guys that worked out and are in shape shouldn't have any problems to pass it. Those that didn't, we'll have a big problem. So if they didn't pass it, if they're not in shape, then they've got to be willing to get in shape.

"If they want to play they will do that."

Senior safety Mark Watley, one of four players made available to the media, said simply adjusting to the amount of running was the toughest part of the offseason conditioning regimen.

Among the different running workouts were everything from 300-yard shuttles to 110-yard sprints to full and half gassers, said Watley, who added that the results are already starting to show and he's in arguably the best shape of his life.

"We know we're going to be uptempo now," Watley said. "Everyone was just not used to it - just running like we're in track.

"I should be in the Olympics with how much we run."

Watley said he's taken on more of a leadership role in relation to keeping his body ready for camp. Whether it's taking a newcomer under his wing and letting them know what to expect, or proper nutrition and ways to stay hydrated, Watley has embraced his responsibility as an upperclassman - more so now that the season is just one month away.

"So I'm like that person, like how last year Trevin Wade, Robert Golden and all the older guys were telling me how to do it," Watley said. "Now it's my turn to tell them."

Senior fullback Taimi Tutogi said that while former strength and conditioning coach Corey Edmond ran a strict program, this year's staff led by Chris Allen is "so much more" focused on running.

"The type of running that you have to do here for this specific offense is unreal," Tutogi said. "We ran every Monday and Friday and it seemed like death every Monday and Friday. But now it's all over, now we have to go to camp and we all feel good about it."

For the offense, some of the things the Wildcats did this summer to both improve their conditioning as well as challenge themselves and learn the no-huddle system was use a stopwatch to time how many plays they could reel off in a short amount of time. Without the guidance of the coaching staff, per NCAA rules, the players had to find some way to make the workouts both competitive and a learning tool to track the progression by some measure.

Junior center Kyle Quinn said the team set a new personal best "every other week" during the voluntary workouts.

"We were really getting better, getting faster with the signals," said Quinn, who added that the idea was the brainchild of both he and quarterback Matt Scott. "It was really good this summer.

"I think our record was a dozen plays and I think it was about 2 1/2 minutes. So that was pretty much our highlight, then we actually kept pretty consistent with those numbers throughout the rest of the summer."

Added Watley: "We have to be in the same pace with the offense."

When the clock strikes 6 p.m. Wednesday and the team opens practice at newly converted Kindall/Sancet Stadium, the former home of the baseball team, there will be no hiding just how truthful the Wildcats are about their conditioning.

Fall classes may still be 19 days away, but the coaching staff will hand out the first test - an eye test.

"I'll tell the team when I meet with them: 'If you're in shape and you did what you needed to do to be ready for the season, you will have no problem. If you didn't, you will,'" Rodriguez said.

Tracy McDannaldTracy McDannald
GOAZCATS.com Senior Editor

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