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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Solomon back and stronger than ever

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Tyler Baker / The Daily Wildcat

As the final seconds of Anu Solomon’s freshman year winded down, the Arizona quarterback limped back to the huddle to run one last play. It was too late. 

Solomon’s luck had run dry and his right ankle had taken too many beatings. 

Two months following the Fiesta Bowl loss to Boise State, the pain of both the defeat and the injury have subsided. 

Solomon indicated at Arizona’s first spring ball practice on Wednesday that the ankle injury is no longer a big issue. 

“I felt good,” Solomon said. “I definitely felt a lot better than the six weeks of our season.”

That’s good news for Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez as he tries to reshape an offense that is losing a handful of key players. 

Wide receiver Austin Hill, center Steven Gurolla and offensive tackle Mickey Baucus are all graduating, while receiver DaVonte’ Neal switched to cornerback over the offseason. Meanwhile, running back Nick Wilson is sitting out the spring. 

There will be plenty of turnover on the first-team practice squad, and it’s possible that Brandon Dawkins or Jerrard Randall could challenge Solomon at quarterback. But for now, the Honolulu native looks to hold a firm grasp on the starting spot. 

“He’s a little bit bigger and obviously, he’s got a little bit more confidence in him now, which is good,” Rodriguez said. “It’s a big spring for him, too, because he knows there’s a lot of things he can work on to get better.”

Rodriguez said he didn’t speak to the quarterback for two weeks because he was so mad after the Fiesta Bowl loss, in which Solomon went 28-49 and threw a pair of interceptions. 

Solomon was just as critical of himself.

“It hurt the next couple weeks,” Solomon said. “I say it to myself, ‘Anu, you looked sloppy at times.’ Watching those films, watching those sloppy mistakes I made, I was so disappointed in myself.” 

The coach and quarterback are now back on speaking terms. Rodriguez even commended him on benching a 325 max, a new quarterback record. Solomon also said that he ran a 4.6 second 40-yard time. 

“We did test results this past weekend and these guys did a good job getting me ready, getting me fast,” Solomon said. “I’m working this year on getting stronger.”

While it’s far too early in the spring to speculate on any major changes to the offense, there’s no question that a more durable, composed quarterback presence will help the Wildcats.

Solomon was criticized last season for his lack of awareness and indecision, areas that he said he is working to improve. 

“I’m obviously putting more emphasis on my pocket presence, accuracy and leadership,” Solomon said.

Leadership will be key as Solomon learns to engineer a revamped group of receiving targets, including Nate Phillips.

The soon-to-be junior suffered a season-ending foot injury against Colorado. Phillips had started five of nine games before the injury and was fourth on the team in receptions. 

“I hadn’t done anything for four months, so it definitely feels good to be back,” Phillips said. “I would have liked [the injury] to happen in the offseason, but there’s nothing you can do about it, so I just had to be the best coach and teammate I could when I was out.”

Solomon’s main targets this spring, along with Phillips, will include receivers Cayleb Jones, Samajie Grant and David Richards. 

Rodriguez said that Arizona also boasts four tight-ends with the right size to fit into his system. 

As was the case last year, Solomon won’t have any shortage of tools at his disposal. Now he has to incorporate his growing skill set with theirs. 

“Everyone has their jitters, but it’s just the first day of spring ball,” Solomon said. “We just have to gradually get better.”

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Follow Ezra Amacher on Twitter.

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