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Run, don’t walk: Rodriguez sets the pace as UA strives to ‘out-hustle’ opponents

CREDIT: WildcatSportsReport.com

You can imagine how Arizona Wildcats coach Rich Rodriguez — the man who says “the huddle is the biggest waste of time” in football — feels about players not moving fast enough at practice.

His whole philosophy is based on speed, pace, tempo, whether that’s running plays, attacking on defense … or simply getting back to the sideline during practice.

You don’t walk on and off the field. You don’t jog. You sprint from one drill to the next, from one play to the next, from one coach to the next.

Redshirt freshman outside linebacker Dame Ndiaye found out Monday in the first spring practice of the Rodriguez era.

Rodriguez didn’t like the leisurely pace at which Ndiaye got off the field.

Rodriguez barked at him to come back to the middle of the field and try again.

Still not fast enough.

Dame, do it again.

And that’s the way things are going to be.

“The pace was probably the biggest difference between the old style and now,” safety Adam Hall said of the first practice.

“We want to be known as a team that is going to out-hustle you, because we can control that every snap. We can work harder than you every day, and we’re going to. So practice has to be how we play — run to the ball every play and we’re not giving up. Full speed all the time.”

Monday night, Ndiaye tweeted: “That had to be the hardest practice I ever been through but it was fun at the same time”

It won’t be boring.

Huffing and puffing and more gassed than they probably expected to be after a practice in shorts, the Wildcats began learning what Rodriguez and his veteran coaching staff expects every second of every practice.

“I just don’t like standing around, idle time,” Rodriguez said. “We have these guys for a limited amount of time. I want us working.”

It’s not like the players haven’t been hearing that message since Rodriguez was hired in late November.

“They gave us a fair warning that practice was going to be very up-tempo,” said junior linebacker Jake Fischer.

“I actually like it a lot because you have to compete on every play. It’s kind of a challenge. You’re running back and you’re not even set, and they’re snapping the ball. It’s pretty cool. … When guys weren’t sprinting out on the field, he noticed it. He notices everything.”

Rodriguez said a typical practice should move quickly enough to last just 100 minutes. The first one took just over two hours, including a lengthy post-practice speech.

“He said he’s seen better, he’s seen worse,” said quarterback Matt Scott.

“One of his main points is that he hates to see people walk on the field. I think we’ll get used to that really quick.”

There is definitely a new normal around Arizona, and the Wildcats aren’t close to Rodriguez’s level of normal yet.

He made the point last week that the team was “weak, really weak” in terms of its weight room prowess.

“We have got to get a whole lot faster and a whole lot stronger,” he said.

There won’t be a lot of choice in the matter.

Rodriguez said he will temper the pace at times when practice is focusing on the defense — maybe actually let them huddle — but the offense moves as fast as someone can spot the ball to be snapped.

“It’s no nonsense,” senior center Kyle Quinn said of a Rodriguez practice.

“There is no wasted movement with Coach Rod’s system. We’re going to be fast. It’s going to be something to see.”

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