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August 4, 2013

Wildcats 'uneven' to start fall camp

Rich Rodriguez has high, but reasonable, expectations of his players. The true freshmen receiving a crash course in Division I football practice have more of a leash than the upperclassmen, and it was the latter that led the second-year Arizona head coach to call Saturday night's first practice of fall camp "uneven."

Although it was the mix of an improving defense and subpar execution, in Rodriguez's eyes, it left him wanting more. At the same, though, it was "pretty much what I thought," he said.

"Pretty good effort by a lot of guys," Rodriguez continued following the two-hour practice at Kindall/Sancet Stadium. "Some not in shape. We've got a handful of guys - upperclassmen - that are going to be doing a little extra to get in shape.

"Don't understand what it takes to be an elite athlete. An elite athlete don't show up in August and expect to be ready to go. So, we'll see what happens."

In other words, it was more of the same to start Year 2 from Rodriguez, who has ripped his team's conditioning in the past.

And on a night like this, when there is not a ton to truly assess so early in camp, Rodriguez has never been one to go out of his way to praise certain individuals. Any general questions about "what jumped out" will be met with a forgettable answer. Ask him specifically about a player, however, and an assessment will follow.

For senior quarterback B.J. Denker, who is battling for the starting job after backing up Matt Scott last season, it was not a pretty answer.

"He won't be talking to you today," Rodriguez said, without hesitation, about Denker. "Does that give you an idea of what I thought about his performance?"

While Denker "competed" and "was in good shape," the execution of one particular play drew the ire of his coach. The 6-3 signal caller dropped back and fired an interception into the hands of safety Jared Tevis. Immediately after the play, Rodriguez repeatedly shouted, "He was covered!"

"He" was Denker's intended receiver.

"The execution in the passing game should be a whole lot better, even with new wide receivers, than it was today," Rodriguez said of Denker, who ran the unofficial first unit.

Overall, the practice was "not discouraging," as he noted quality defensive plays from a unit he expects to be improved after finishing in the bottom of the Pac-12 Conference each of the last two seasons.

Among the highlights, beyond Tevis' pick, was three interceptions by fellow safety Tra'Mayne Bondurant - all against four-star quarterback Anu Solomon.

Welcome to the competition, freshman.

But Solomon had his bright spots, as well, finding redshirt freshman Clive Georges with a well-placed, deep pass down the sideline and over three members of the secondary in the vicinity of the play.

The other key cog of the quarterback battle, Jesse Scroggins, was held out of practice with a concussion. Rodriguez said the setback was a "freak accident" but was hopeful to have him on the field for Sunday night's practice.

Notes

-The Wildcats added receiver Donte Cretain, a 5-6, 150-pound freshman from Opelousas, La.

Austin Hyatt, a 6-5, 275-pound freshman, also was added. The San Diego, Calif., native is on the offensive line.

-Freshman Vaughn Fontana was moved from the defensive line to the offensive line.

-Redshirt freshman safety Tellas Jones, previously listed without a jersey number, was wearing No. 14.

-Texas transfer Connor Brewer, who committed to the Wildcats last Monday, was in uniform and participated in drills. The 6-2 redshirt freshman was wearing No. 11.

-Davonte Neal, who transferred from Notre Dame, also practiced and worked with the receivers and punt returners. Neal is awaiting word from the NCAA on his eligibility, which Rodriguez was doubtful about at Pac-12 media day.

Tracy McDannaldTracy McDannald
GOAZCATS.com Senior Editor

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