Arizona has kicked off its spring practices and the Wildcats are already two days in to a spring practice season that Rich Rodriguez hopes will bring Arizona back to fundamental football and pay off down the road. So far the news coming out of camp is mostly good, with players showing up stronger and eager to push one another for starting reps.
At quarterback, it sounds like Brandon Dawkins could push two-year starter Anu Solomon. Early enrollee Khalil Tate is also on campus but will likely use this spring as more of an introduction to college football than as a true launching point for the starting job of the 2016 season (but stranger things have happened).
So far, Dawkins feels pretty confident, telling Arizona Desert Swarm that "this is going to be a huge spring and fall camp for me and I feel like I'm just trying to come in and win this job."
The offensive line, specifically center, has even more competition than quarterback. Arizona Desert Swarm wrote that seven different Wildcats were taking snaps at center as Arizona tries to find consistency at that position. Out of those seven the three to keep an eye on are Zach Hemmila, Levi Walton and Nathan Eldridge. On Tuesday, tucson.com's Michael Lev had a feature on Hemmila, outlining how he has been searching for consistency, which offensive line coach Jim Michalczik said is the most important attribute for an offensive lineman.
"The biggest thing about snapping is consistency," Michalczik told Lev. "Last year, unfortunately, we had some inconsistent moments that cost us. I think guys understand the importance. It's something they have to work on on their own, because we can't work with them with the ball when we're not at practice."
Nick Wilson will be Rodriguez's go-to guy at running back. As of a week ago Wilson was going at 85 percent. With him a bit limited in spring ball look for back up Orlando Bradford to get some quality reps.
The Arizona wide receiver battles will be fun to watch moving forward because there are several options there. Nate Phillips and Samajie Grant, the team's third- and fifth-leading receivers in 2015, both return and will play big parts in the offense, but there's quite a bit of intrigue after those two. Trey Griffey, who struggled with injuries last season, is back and is looking to emulate his idol while Cam Denson has transitioned from cornerback. The experience as a defensive back, as Denson explained to tucson.com, will make him tougher to guard as a wide receiver.
Finally, at tight end, Josh Kern is up to 235 pounds but the Wildcats will be without Brion Anduze, who reportedly visited the hospital after a bad leg injury during the first day of spring practices. Rodriguez will be looking to get other players involved there.
His hope for this spring is that he's able to develop depth and return to fundamentals, which in turn he hopes helps the Wildcats return to a spot in which they're competing for the South title.