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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Football notes: Spring ends on high note for Wildcats

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Jesus Barrera

For the first time since the Fiesta Bowl, fans were able to watch the Arizona football team in action on Friday night in the annual Spring Game.

Arizona defeated the Wildcats 96-68 in a scrimmage with modified scoring rules that lasted 100 plays. Arizona football coach Rich Rodriguez then reached out to fans as they were allowed to call a handful of plays.

“I wanted to get 90-100 plays, and we had 100 plays exactly — until the fans took over,” Rodriguez said. “I saw some good, saw some ugly, but I think they had a little fun. We had a good crowd, and we got a lot of things we can build off of.”

Starting quarterback Anu Solomon saw the majority of the snaps and finished 19-25 for 175 yards and two touchdowns, despite seeing consistent pressure.

The offensive line struggled at times, but Solomon said he’s more comfortable with them, especially tackle Freddie Tagaloa, as spring football ends.

“I am much more comfortable,” Solomon said. “When you add Freddie in there, he plays a huge part in the offense. He gives us a lot of time on my backside, and that really gives the quarterback more enjoyable situations.”

The skill players reaped the benefits of Solomon’s comfort level.

Jared Baker took advantage of his opportunity, with starting running back Nick Wilson out, to the tune of two touchdowns and 36 yards on eight carries.

Wide receivers Cayleb Jones and David Richards each hauled in a touchdown.

Tight ends show out

Arizona’s tight ends hauled in 11 passes on Friday night. To put that into perspective, that’s 11 more than all of last season.

For those who aren’t math majors, that means a tight end did not record a catch last season. Wide receiver Austin Hill shifted inside to tight end last season and received the majority of looks at the position.

Friday night saw Solomon target his tight ends early and often, with Josh Kern leading the scrimmage with five receptions. Matt Morin, Trevor Wood and Darrell Cloy Jr. weren’t far behind, as the trio combined for six receptions.

The group’s versatility was a talking point after the game.

“They bring a lot to the table,” Solomon said. “Obviously, I’m surrounded with talent all around me, and, you know, as a quarterback, you want that so you can spread that all around.”

Rodriguez joked that Kern’s three catches on the opening drive were more than any tight end in Arizona history.

“That was more catches by a tight end in the history of Arizona football, maybe even with [former Wildcat tight end and current New England Patriot Rob Gronkowski] was here,” Rodriguez said. “Gronk could look at that and say, ‘Wow, what’s happening?’”

Defense holds out stars

Rich Rodriguez has slowly but surely built depth all around the Arizona defensive ranks, and that depth was put to the test on Friday.

Integral defensive players like linebacker Scooby Wright III, safety Will Parks and defensive end Reggie Gilbert saw limited action during the Spring Game. Each saw about the equivalent of one series, or less, as Rodriguez said he wanted to get a look at some of the lesser known commodities.

“We were holding a lot of guys out after the first couple series,” Rodriguez said. “I think Scooby didn’t play after the warm-up. Reggie Gilbert was in there for like two or three plays. … We didn’t play some of the defensive guys as much, because we know what they can do.”

Paul Magloire Jr. and Marcus Griffin took advantage of that and made big plays all around the field.

Griffin nearly had a defensive touchdown, and Magloire Jr. led the team with nine total tackles.

“Overall, we found some guys that we need to get in our rotation,” Rodriguez said, “and hopefully they’ll work hard this summer and be ready in August.”

Friday night lights

Switching the Spring Game from Saturday to Friday night had a seemingly positive effect on everyone, from fans to players and coaches. After the game, Rodriguez said he would like to keep the game on Friday nights.

“I like the Friday night deal. … Obviously we have Spring Fling going on, good crowd, it’s a little bit cooler for our fans,” Rodriguez said. “So, I hope we can continue to do it. The [Pac-12 Networks] was very cooperative of getting it on TV there, so I think it’s all a win-win for us.”

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Follow Roberto Payne on Twitter.

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