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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona football holds first spring scrimmage, Denker and Jackson connect

Matthew+Fulton+%2F+Arizona+Daily+Wildcat%0A%0AThe+El+Rio+Health+and+Safety+fair+on+Saturday+March+23rd+consisted+of+College+of+Pharmacy+grad+students+offering+free+health+screenings+to+the+public.+Screenings+that+were+offered+were+for+cholesterol%2C+asthma%2C+heartburn%2C+vision%2C+and+others.+
Matthew Fulton
Matthew Fulton / Arizona Daily Wildcat The El Rio Health and Safety fair on Saturday March 23rd consisted of College of Pharmacy grad students offering free health screenings to the public. Screenings that were offered were for cholesterol, asthma, heartburn, vision, and others.

Arizona football held its first spring scrimmage Saturday, and while the 90-minute scrimmage was more of a structured practice than anything else, a budding relationship between quarterback B.J. Denker and wide receiver Johnny Jackson stood out.

As the offense and defense went head-to-head in various points on the field, Denker continually targeted the quick Jackson as he found space in the seams of the Wildcats’ defensive sets.

“He had a great day today, he came to play,” Denker said about Jackson. “On a couple of those touchdowns in the red zone, he saw the defense doing one thing and I saw it [too]. He was in the right place and I threw the ball on time.”

Jackson, a former walk-on, didn’t have huge stats his freshman season, making 25 receptions for 187 yards and one score. The 5-foot-10 speed receiver showed a similar impact as a possession guy in the UA’s midseason loss to Stanford.

He caught 10 balls for 75 yards before leaving late in the third quarter with an ankle injury.

Head coach Rich Rodriguez said the play-calling allowed Jackson to find all of the space in the gaps, but added that Jackson is a really good football player.

In Denker’s only career start, a 56-31 win against Colorado last year, the two didn’t have quite the same chemistry. Jackson had one catch for -4 yards and Denker only threw the ball 14 times as the offense relied on a record-breaking day from running back Ka’Deem Carey.

Saturday was a different story, as Denker hit Jackson with the ball constantly, helping to create a rhythm that Denker said makes the game almost simple.

“It’s pitch and catch. It’s like stealing candy from a baby,” Denker said. “It’s really easy, I was really happy with [Jackson’s] performance.”

Now that quarterback Matt Scott is waiting for the NFL Draft, Denker has a chance to make the combination with Jackson count on the real stage.

Denker, a junior college transfer from Cerritos College, made six appearances last year in backup duty, including the start against Colorado. But, with true freshman Anu Solomon on his way in and transfer Jesse Scroggins recovering from foot surgery, the quarterback competition has yet to heat up.

When it’s all said and done, Denker might end up back in his relief role next year, as there are some questions about his passing abilities. But at least in the first scrimmage, the mobile quarterback showed he has the ability to make accurate, short passes on a consistent basis.

“B.J. is usually a guy who likes to run it and whatnot, but he was definitely spreading the ball around to his receivers,” Jackson said. “He did a great job of being patient, standing in the pocket and waiting for everybody to get open.”

With seven practices down and seven to go before the spring game on April 13, Rodriguez said the team isn’t where it needs to be physically. But, they are in better shape than last season, just the strength of the team could be an issue.

“It was a little bit ragged at times,” Rodriguez said about the scrimmage. “I thought there were some good moments, B.J. executed pretty well. Defensively, we didn’t play as well as we’d been practicing in the other practices.”

Denker was making the correct reads and seeing the field well, which Rodriguez said was impressive.

The upcoming senior was also very vocal. He could be heard calling out plays, giving words of encouragement and celebrating after scores. Given Denker’s outgoing personality, his constant chatter wasn’t surprising.

“With the quarterback [position], you’re assumed the leader,” Denker said. “With that also I want to be a vocal leader and get these guys going. Especially when we’re competing against the defense, talk a little smack and have some fun. I just wanted to be vocal so they’d know I’m confident in them and they’re confident in me.”

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