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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Rodriguez’s faster tempo not a surprise to Arizona football

Gordon Bates
Gordon Bates / Arizona Daily Wildcat

Full-speed, up-tempo, fast and quick — these are some of the words players used to describe the pace of practice under new Arizona football coach Rich Rodriguez.

Monday marked the official first day of spring football. The speed at which Rodriguez likes to work acted as a wake-up call of sorts for Arizona.

“Fast. One word,” center Kyle Quinn said. “There’s no nonsense, no wasted movements with coach Rod’s system. We’re going to be fast. It’s going to be something to see.”

The breakneck pace of practice didn’t come as a complete surprise, as Rodriguez and his coaching staff tried to warn the team that it would be moving around a lot. But that didn’t make it any less exhausting.

“They told us (practice) was going to be faster like NASCAR, Indy driving tempo, so I was like, ‘Wow, that’s something I never experienced,’ but I was ready for it,” said Richard Morrison, who is transitioning from receiver to quarterback.

Even though the first day was tiring, much of the team said it enjoys the change of pace from what former head coach Mike Stoops brought to practice.

“Pace was the biggest difference between the old style and now, and that’s probably just because of the philosophy of the practice and how we want to be known,” senior safety Adam Hall said. “We’re running to the ball every play, we’re not giving up and it’s full speed all the time.”

Linebacker Jake Fischer, who missed all of last season after tearing his ACL, was a big fan of the new coaching style.

“They gave us a fair warning that practice was going to be very up-tempo and I liked it a lot,” Fischer said. “It’s a challenge. It’s cool. You’re tired but I like it.”

Rodriguez, who counts Arizona as his sixth coaching stop, admits that the first practice is always going to be ugly and there’s no avoiding that. In addition to the pace, learning a new scheme always takes a while.

“The learning curve is going to be different no matter what scheme you put in, but you combine that with the pace that we want our guys to learn and practice at (and) it’s going to be a little bit different,” Rodriguez said. “Our guys are eager, they’ve been coached before and they understand that this is a transition and there will be some problems during spring practice, but I think they’re eager and that’s a start.”

Rodriguez, who was hired in November to replace Mike Stoops, installed a stop light at the north end zone of the Jimenez Practice Facility. When the light turns green, it means the players must go full speed, yellow means to practice at half-speed and red means stop.

“It’s really the first day that us coaches really get a chance to evaluate our guys and teach a few new things,” Rodriguez said. “I’ll tell them if you don’t know where you’re going just run in place.”

He was half joking when talking to the media before practice, but, if some of the players’ evaluations of practice are any indication, he was dead serious.

“He hates seeing people walk on the field, and I think we’ll get used to that real quick,” said projected starting quarterback Matt Scott.

At one point, reserve kicker Jesse Ortiz was getting water while the rest of the team was getting ready to stretch at the opposite end of the field. From across the field, Rodriguez noticed him not with the team, and yelled at Ortiz to get over there. At that moment, Rodriguez made it clear, no matter if you’re on offense, defense or special teams, if you’re a starter or reserve, he’s watching.

“When guys weren’t sprinting out on the field he noticed it, I mean he notices everything, he’s watching both sides of the ball fairly equally,” Fischer said. “If you’re not running, going full speed or working your hardest, he’s going to get on you for it.”

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