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August 3, 2013

Wildcats set to open fall camp

Starting today, Saturdays are once again football Saturdays for Arizona.

The Wildcats, now in Year 2 under head coach Rich Rodriguez, will open fall camp later this evening with a two-hour practice at Kindall/Sancet Stadium. With plenty of uncertainty, a rash of injuries and a few key departures at a number of positions, there is expected to be several more wide-open position battles.

Here is a primer and a few roster notes:

QB battle finally underway

There was not much of a competition in the spring, as Jesse Scroggins (toe) missed most of camp while recovering from offseason surgery before returning in time for the spring game. Also, four-star freshman Anu Solomon had yet to arrive.

So, last year's backup, B.J. Denker, took the majority of the first-team snaps. Rodriguez said at Pac-12 Conference media day that the senior will open camp running the first unit. Whether he remains there past Saturday is anybody's guess.

Rodriguez has said he has no qualms about handing the keys over to a true freshman, if worthy of the job.

Dark horse: Among the other quarterbacks in camp, Nick Isham is the one with the most experience, starting seven games as a true freshman at Louisiana Tech in 2011 before transferring and sitting out last season.

Isham's spring was cut short by a shoulder injury but he displayed a capable arm.

Spread thin at safety

The departures of Vince Miles (voluntary) and Patrick Onwuasor (kicked off the team) have forced the Wildcats to move Jourdon Grandon back to free safety - where the junior started in 2012 - after moving him to cornerback in the spring.

And while the secondary also returns its starting spur (Tra'Mayne Bondurant) and bandit (Jared Tevis), there are plenty of questions about the depth.

William Parks, Jamar Allah, Blake Brady and Wayne Capers Jr. are among those in search of expanded roles in 2013. They will be joined by freshmen David Price, R.J. Morgan, Jarvis McCall Jr. and Tellas Jones, among the host of newcomers.

Keep an eye on: Freshman Derek Babiash, although listed at cornerback, could be a candidate to move over because of his 6-1, 175-pound frame. The Poway, Calif., native was one of the more highly rated incoming freshmen in RichRod's 2013 class.

More pressure

That's something the Wildcats have lacked along the defensive line each of the past two seasons. In fact, combining the team's number of sacks (26) from those campaigns, UA would only move up one spot from the cellar and still be a sack shy of 10th-place Washington's 27 for just the 2012 season. The combined number also would remain 31 sacks shy of league-leading Stanford's total last season.

The 'Cats are hoping some combination of redshirt freshman Kyle Kelley and true freshmen Calvin Allen, Jack Banda and Luca Bruno will provide an immediate boost to the front three.

Another new face: One of the newest additions to the roster is 6-7, 250-pound Gerhard de Beer. The South African is a track and field competitor with national boys' U16 and U18 records in the discus, as well as a World Youth and Junior Games bronze medalist in the event.

The freshman lineman has a rugby background, too.

More roster notes

While updating the roster on GOAZCATS.com, it appears 2013 signee Nate Phillips will instead go by James Phillips - unless the Wildcats found another Chandler (Ariz.) Basha receiver. In the media guide, Phillips' father is named James. … After switching positions (tight end to linebacker to defensive end) and jersey numbers (40 to 14 to 3) several times last fall, sophomore Keoni Bush-Loo will open camp at linebacker with the No. 3. Over/under on how long that remains the same? … Tellas Jones, a redshirt freshman transfer from Fort Scott (Kan.) Community College, was listed without a jersey number. He will open camp at safety.

Full fall camp preview

For those who subscribe to GOAZCATS.com, here are the premium links to each of the position battle previews:

Offense: Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver | Tight end | Offensive line

Defense: Safety (written prior to Onwuasor's dismissal) | Cornerback | Linebacker | Defensive line

Special teams

Tracy McDannaldTracy McDannald
GOAZCATS.com Senior Editor

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