In Rich Rodriguez's first spring, Arizona had a veteran quarterback and new schemes. This spring, they have established schemes but no quarterback. At least, no one with substantial experience who inspires confidence.
Alas, there will be no quarterback solution during spring practices, which start Saturday. USC transfer Jesse Scroggins will be limited after foot surgery, and incoming freshman Anu Solomon won't arrive until the summer.
While QB is the Wildcats' biggest question, as Matt Scott was unquestionably one of the Pac-12's super-elite players in 2012, things could be worse. They could be like last year, when Rodriguez basically called the players he inherited fat and lazy. In Year 2, things feel different for coaches and players.
"I think a lot of the guys who were here with us last year understand how we’re supposed to work and how we approach things," Rodriguez said. "The biggest difference is we know our guys. We know what we have and we know what we need to work on. Last spring, we focused on fundamentals but we also introduced our schemes. This spring will be a lot more about fundamentals than it is schemes."
There are plenty of issues for Rodriguez to fret over, including some that are bothersome in ways other than what transpires on the field. Namely the status of RB Ka'Deem Carey, who has had a -- self-inflicted -- terrible offseason.
Said Rodriguez, "He’s progressing well and he’ll be with us in the spring. His process of making sure he shows the true person that he is is still ongoing, but he’s been doing well. We’ve got close tabs on him, and he knows that. He knows he’s made some mistakes and has to prove what kind of person he is.”
With the departure of Scott and questionable backfield depth, Carey, an All-American and the nation's leading rusher last fall, is the Wildcats' most celebrated and valuable player. He needs to get his act together. Like right now.
Another issue: Injuries. Here's the list compiled by Anthony Gimino of the Tucson Citizen:
OL Jacob Arzouman (knee), LB C.J. Dozier (shoulder), WR Trevor Ermisch (hernia), LB Marquis Flowers (shoulder), TE Nolan Heyer (knee), OL Lene Maiava (knee), CB Jonathan McKnight (shoulder), DE Dan Pettinato (knee), WR David Richards (foot), CB Shaquille Richardson (shoulder), QB Jesse Scroggins (foot), DL Kirifi Taula (shoulder).
With this many injuries, it's fair to say the Wildcats won't solve many of their depth chart competitions until August.
A guy who has a big opportunity, however, is QB B.J. Denker. He's clearly the first among equals at the position as of today, and he could make a strong statement if he moves the chains, protects the football and gets the team behind him.
"B.J. Denker has proven himself a little bit," Rodriguez said. "He’s already played some. But he’s the only one. He’s got to get better but I know he’s working pretty hard. I’m anxious to see how much better he’s gotten."
Getting better is what spring football is all about. But figuring things out at quarterback is likely the point A for the Wildcats improving in Year 2 under Rich Rod.