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The Daily Wildcat

 

Rodriguez expecting rocky start as spring practice kicks off

Rich+Rodriguez+speaks+during+the+press+conference+to+officially+announce+his+appointment+to+the+head+coach+of+UA+football%2C+on+22+Nov.+2011.++%0A%0AKeith+Hickman-Perfetti%2F+Arizona+Daily+Wildcat
Keith Hickman-Perfetti
Rich Rodriguez speaks during the press conference to officially announce his appointment to the head coach of UA football, on 22 Nov. 2011. Keith Hickman-Perfetti/ Arizona Daily Wildcat

As the Arizona football team gears up for its first spring practice on Monday afternoon, head coach Rich Rodriguez is tempering his expectations.

“This spring is different from our future springs in that it will be as much an evaluation as it will be teaching,” Rodriguez said at a Thursday press conference in McKale Center. “Obviously you want to teach fundamentals and teach your schemes, but for us, this being the first spring, we also want to do a good job of evaluating and seeing what our strengths and weaknesses are.”

Rodriguez said that while he was a little surprised about where the players are at from a physical standpoint, it made sense, considering Arizona was unable to make a bowl game last season, thus extending the players’ offseasons. Rodriguez wasn’t sure if they even did a lot of lifting from mid-season on.

“Mentally they were ready (for spring workouts),” Rodriguez said. “We were really weak, and still are as a football team. That’s the bad news. The good news is I think our guys have gotten stronger over the last month and a half and still have another five to six months to get ready.”

An adjustment period is to be expected whenever a new coach takes over a college football program. From a recruiting standpoint, from a personnel standpoint, from a workout standpoint and from a schematic standpoint, things will be different. And it will be ugly at the first spring practice — a fact Rodriguez knows all too well.

“First spring in Glenville State, there were only about 25 guys on the team and I was bigger than all of them, so I knew we wouldn’t even get a first down,” Rodriguez said. “First spring at Tulane, it was really ugly. If there was an NCAA record for sacks allowed in spring practice then we would have won it for sure.”

He went on to describe much of the same ugliness at the beginning of his stops in Clemson, West Virginia and, most recently, Michigan.

Rodriguez knows the first spring practice won’t be the prettiest sight, which is why the team is in for a rude awakening.

“The first couple of practices will be a surprise to them, just the pace and tempo and how fast we move,” Rodriguez said. “There’s not a lot of standing around, we blow a siren when it’s game mode and everything is full speed. We have a stop light that tells everyone we’re in full speed mode, yellow when in teaching mode, or the one or two times in practice when it’s red, they can stand on their head and go in the shade. We’ll probably even have popsicles for them.”

When all is said and done this spring, Rodriguez knows two things, above all, will help determine if the team had a successful spring season: its physical and mental toughness.

“Mental toughness is gauged in a lot of areas,” Rodriguez said. “It’s gauged in the weight room, it’s gauged in early morning workouts and it’s gauged in the spring practices. We have no chance at success if we don’t get mentally and physically tough. None.”

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