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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Pac-12 Media Day notes: Fischer expects Arizona football defense to improve

CULVER CITY, Calif. — In 2012 the Wildcats’ defense was clearly the sore spot in what was a productive eight win season.

Arizona’s high tempo offense finished ranked seventh out of 120 Division I schools in total offense, while its defense slugged behind finishing 118th. The defense gave up an average of 499 yards per game to their opponents last season.

Injuries and inexperience were some of the reasons the defense struggled under its first season with head coach Rich Rodriguez. These issues resurfaced on Friday as Rodriguez and senior linebacker Jack Fischer were asked about its stability.

“We’ll have a good defense [this year],” Fischer said. “I’m extremely confident in that because [defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel] is a genius and the 3-3-5 failed at Michigan because [Rodriguez] didn’t have coach Casteel.”

With more players buying into the defensive system and staying healthy, Fischer along with Rodriguez are both confident that they will do a better job limiting opposing offenses. Guys who were forced to play last season despite not being physically or mentally ready to play are now ahead of the game because of that playing time.

“In order to get to the Rose Bowl and win we’re going to need to step it up on the defensive side,” Fischer said. “It really held us back last year.”

Quarterback questions

Who will replace Matt Scott as the signal caller for Arizona in 2013 was also a hot topic at media day.

Following the end of spring practice senior B.J. Denker was leading the way getting most of the snaps with the starters.

Rodriguez doesn’t like playing the “if the season started today” games, but he did say Denker would be on top of the depth chart at the start of fall practice. However, he is far from winning the starting job.

“We might not know the answer by the first couple of games,” Rodriguez said. “But what’s going to be critical for us as coaches is putting those guys in different situations to see who emerges.”

Even though he hasn’t named a starter, Rodriguez is happy with the depth. Junior college transfer and former USC signal caller Jesse Scroggins and freshman Anu Solomon are the two other candidates for the job who are both hot on Denker’s tail.

“Do I expect them to be as good at Matt Scott? of course not. But we got enough talent there,” Rodriguez said. “We’ll be okay.”

Woes at Receiver

Spring practice ended on a sour note as star junior wide receiver Austin Hill sustained a ACL tear and will be forced to miss an unknown amount of games in 2013.

There was no new information on the injury and when he will return but fellow receiver Terrence Miller said Hill was staying upbeat.

“He’s doing great his spirit is way up even though he’s injured,” the senior said. “I don’t even think he’s worried about setting a day to return. He’s just in the weight room lifting trying to stay big and continue to get better the best way possible.”

The Wildcats receiving corps wasn’t a big issue during spring practice; Rodriguez actually called it the position with the most depth. But fast-forward just three months and it’s become the biggest issue on the offensive side the ball.

Rodriguez even said it was worse than the depth issue at defensive back.

With Hill and David Richards injured and Tyler Slavin having left the team, the Wildcats will look upon Miller to be a leader and produce the similar stats to that of Hill in 2012.

“I just got to step it up,” Miller said. Guys are going to rely on me more to get the job done and I’m ready for it.”

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