Arizona football

University of Arizona football player Abraham Mendivil reaches up for a pass during Arizona fall football camp. 

Year four of the Rich Rodriguez era got underway on Wednesday as the Wildcats started fall camp. It was a rare open practice for the media, so we got a good look at the team.

It was a pretty typical first practice. No pads, so it is very tough to get a great gauge on how guys really look. Practice was mostly smooth, as the team knows what is expected and move easily from drill to drill and skill to skill.

“We started practice early and we finished practice on time,” Rodriguez said. “I told the team we kind of script an hour and 45 minute practice and they determine whether we go over an hour and 45 minutes or less than an hour and 45 minutes. Today we actually finished a couple minutes early so I thought it was pretty good work today.”

Quarterbacks 

With just four quarterbacks on the roster, it is one of the smallest groups I can remember since Rodriguez’s first spring. It is early, but both Anu Solomon and Jerrard Randall were the most consistent, which is to be expected as they look like they will be the top two quarterbacks.

“We know what Anu (Solomon) and Jerrard (Randall)’s strengths are,” said Rodriguez. “We know what plays they run better than others. We have to be careful, even though we have some experience there, that we don’t add too much and its slows us down. We’ll be a little ahead of installation than we were a year ago at this time.”

Solomon had a good, solid day, but if we are just looking at physical ability, Randall is very impressive. The ball just explodes off his hand and it looks like his accuracy is getting better. This is clearly Solomon’s team, but Randall looks like a really good option.

Wide Outs 

With Trey Griffey held out, Cayleb Jones and David Richards loomed large over the rest of the group. No other receivers have their mix of height and muscle. Both guys are big and strong and made some nice catches. Jones had a great grab during 11-on-11 work going over the defensive back.

I was a little surprised that freshman Shun Brown has started his career at WR. I loved his tape as a corner back, but he wants to start on offense. Brown’s lack of height is his only real knock as a DB, but it will not be as big a deal at WR. The early reports are that he has a shot to play right away.

Tony Ellison is a guy who has gotten some rave reviews and he has certainly flashed some ability over the past year, but there are still some growing pains. He has all the tools to be an effective slot receiver in the Wildcats’ system, but had to make a few corrections on some minor technique things. He seems like a quick learner and expect him to be in the rotation.

Tight End and Line 

As they did in spring the Wildcats continue to run a lot of plays for the tight ends and the first day of fall camp was no exception. There is a lot of good size in the group, but Trevor Wood still stands out. He’s tall, thick and moves well. Josh Kern still reminds me a bit of former Wildcat Steve Fleming and it was weird to see a No. 48 out there. Brion Anduzehas a long way to go to be the next Rob Gronkowski, but has some similar size.

The battle of camp, at least on offense, is center. Carter Wood got the most reps with the first team line. He had a slim hold on the job coming out of spring drills, but has a long way to go to sew up the job. One newcomer who got some reps is Chase Hanlon. The Washington native joined the military out of high school, then played at Long Beach City College where he was listed as an offensive lineman, defensive lineman and tight end. He is listed at 6-1, 279 on the UA roster handed out to the media at practice. He is listed at 6-4, 270 by Long Beach CC and on his Hudl page, but one of the linemen next to him in the highlight video is listed at 6-5 and he is clearly several inches shorter.

Defensive Line 

Luca Bruno joined Reggie Gilbert and Parker Zellers in working with the first team. The redshirt sophomore has yet to make in impact on the program since being touted by Rodriguez during the fall of his first year. Bruno ran into some issues getting cleared and never established himself. He’ll get that chance this year.

JC transfer Anthony Fotu showed some flashes and I would expect him to be in the mix.

Linebackers 

Basically five linebackers got serious work with the first team. Scooby Wright never left the unit and was joined by DeAndre’ Miller, Jake MatthewsCody Ippolito and Derrick Turituri. Already an athletic freak, Turituri looks even bigger this year.

Overall the offensive line held off the pass rush, but the defense had some success with blitzes from the backers. Ippolito had a few nice penetrations from the middle.

Defensive Backs 

Despite Anthony Lopez coming up with a big pick, the defensive backs had their issues on day one. Cam Denson and Jarvis McCall worked with the first team and seemed to have better days than back-up Davonte’ Neal and Devin Holiday.

Freshman Demetrious Flannigan-Fowles stood out because he has great size at 6-2, 182. Redshirt freshman Kwesi Mashackhas not missed his reps in the weight room. At 5-8 and over 200 pounds the kid is yoked. 

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