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Welcome to March Madness, Arizona spring football-style.
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The Wildcats, who have posted identical 8-5 records in head coach Rich Rodriguez's first two seasons, return to the field Monday afternoon for the first of 15 practices leading up to the April 12 Spring Game.
Rodriguez said the objective early will be for the players to show "a sense of urgency," even if he is more relaxed without the task of planning for an opponent for five months.
"In the fall I get wired pretty easy, simply because you've got to get ready for a game," Rodriguez said. "In the spring, there's no threat of losing the spring game. … To me, the spring is a little bit more fun for coaches, from a competition standpoint.
"There's a lot of young players and a lot of returning players that have a lot to prove this spring, and I hope they always feel that way.
"I think the effort part should be ingrained in them now, even though I know the first couple practices they're not in football shape. But I think they've gotten stronger and I think they've gotten faster. I want to see how that translates to playing stronger and playing faster."
Among the players with plenty to prove is senior receiver Austin Hill, who is still wearing a knee brace for precautionary reasons after tearing his ACL at the end of last spring camp.
Rodriguez said the former second-team All-Pac-12 Conference selection and Biletnikoff Award semifinalist is 100 percent.
But there will be plenty of unknowns heading into camp, and Rodriguez is hopeful that a host of mid-year transfers and now-eligible transfers who sat out the 2013 season can ease the loss of two-time All-American Ka'Deem Carey and last year's starting quarterback B.J. Denker.
Among the transfers expected to make an impact are receivers Davonte' Neal and Cayleb Jones, nose tackle Jeff Worthy and linebacker Antonio Smothers.
While Neal and Jones practiced with the team last season, several others like Worthy and Smothers arrived in Tucson over the winter to help bolster the competition.
"We've got to create competition," Rodriguez said. "We've had some, but not nearly to the level that you've got to have, supposed to have and need to have."
Plenty of that competition will be young - although, Rodriguez added that there will be competition from every class in future spring camps.
There will be a blend of excitement and uncertainty, which can be "scary" but it's nothing new. The Wildcats will be looking for their third different starting quarterback in as many seasons under Rodriguez.
Redshirt freshmen Anu Solomon and Pierre Cormier headline the wide-open quarterback and running back competitions, respectively.
For more spring camp preview coverage to help get you up to speed, read more here (subscribers only):
Stay tuned to GOAZCATS.com for coverage throughout camp, including a photo gallery of the first practice later in the day, and more for subcribers.
Click Here to view this Link.Tracy McDannald
GOAZCATS.com Senior Editor