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March 2, 2013

Wildcats looking for leaders as spring camp opens

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It's back to work Saturday morning for second-year head coach Rich Rodriguez and the Arizona Wildcats.

Spring camp will open with an approximately two-hour practice at Kindall/Sancet Stadium.

Last season, the Wildcats won eight games including the New Mexico Bowl in Rodriguez's first season in Tucson. But 2012 is in the books, and the only thing Rodriguez wants to do is focus on how to build off the previous year.

"You reflect back but maybe not as much as learn from (the previous season)," Rodriguez said. "Whether it was schemes or methods or ways, I think it's important as a coach that you always look back at the good and the bad. See what you did well, see what you did poorly and what you've got to do to get better."

Among the storylines heading into last spring was the poor conditioning the players reported to camp in. Now, Rodriguez said his players should have a better understanding of what to expect over the next 15 practices.

"Our strength and conditioning coaches feel the objectives they wanted have been accomplished," Rodriguez said.

Gone are Matt Scott, Dan Buckner, Kyle Quinn and a host of others who led the way in Year 1. It was the senior leadership that helped ease the transition of a new scheme and coaching staff.

In 2013, it will be more of a mix between experienced seniors, talented juniors and a slew of first- and second-year players looking to make an impact. There will even be a quarterback competition - sort of - and number of other key position battles.

For certain, here is what will be new this season: The Wildcats will have a new quarterback, center, place-kicker and punter, and taking over as position coaches will be Jim Michalczik (offensive line), Charlie Ragle (tight ends/special teams coordinator) and Matt Caponi (safeties).

But the biggest difference, Rodriguez said, will be the familiarity with the personnel, and vice versa, and first-hand knowledge of what needs to improve.

"I think every team is different," Rodriguez said. "I don't think the program changes but the team changes from a personality standpoint.

"I'm waiting to see how [the leadership] develops this year. I think a lot of the guys that were here with us understand how we're supposed to work and how we approach things. We expect anywhere from 35 to 40 new guys on the team this fall, so it's going to be competitive just to have a roster spot and we want it that way.

One player who probably is thankful that it is time to get back on the field is Ka'Deem Carey. The All-American running back led the nation in rushing last season, gaining 1,929 yards to go with 23 touchdowns on the ground - both single-season school records. His 2,248 all-purpose yards were a yard shy of another single-season mark.

The junior-to-be's spring was supposed to be the start to serious Heisman Trophy consideration. Instead, Carey will be trying to restore his image after three run-ins with the law, including charges for misdemeanor assault and disorderly conduct stemming from a Dec. 23 incident with his pregnant ex-girlfriend. The pre-trial hearing, which was pushed back, is set for March 20.

Rodriguez said Carey has since been "progressing well" and will be with the team in the spring.

"His process of making sure that he shows the true person that he is still ongoing," Rodriguez said. "We've got close tabs on him and he knows that. He knows he made a mistake and that he's got to prove what kind of person he is."

Key dates:

Friday, March 29 - Scrimmage (7 p.m.) at Phoenix College

Saturday, April 13 - Spring game (1 p.m.) at Kindall/Sancet Stadium

Aug. 31 - 2013 season opener against Northern Arizona

Tracy McDannaldTracy McDannald
GOAZCATS.com Senior Editor

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