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Rodriguez laments lacks of intensity in first practice in pads

Rich Rodriguez

Rich Rodriguez wasn't smiling much at Wednesday's practice. Photo by Mark Evans, TucsonCitizen.com

It’s a line that new Arizona Wildcats football coach Rich Rodriguez has used several times already.

The process of starting something new, of changing schemes on both sides of the ball, of creating a new standard of excellence in offseason workouts is a discovery of “finding out the guys who really love football and the guys who just kind of like it.”

He said that before Wednesday’s practice, the third of the spring and the first in pads.

He talked about being eager to begin to gauge how physical the players were, to see increased intensity.

More than a couple of hours later, it seemed as if his guys just kind of like football.

Rodriguez was so unhappy with what he saw that he barred the players from their usual post-practice media availability and headed over himself to speak with reporters again.

“It wasn’t good,” he said of practice.

“We’ve got some pretty good kids and some pretty good players, but I want all the guys, all the time, to have the same sense of urgency that the best guys do.

“There are different levels in the sense of urgency. I know our fan base has it. I believe our coaches have it, although we have to show it. We have to have a sense of urgency to have a championship culture. I didn’t feel that was there today.”

Early in spring practice is the right time to send a message, and Rodriguez will see if this one hits home when the Cats convene again on Friday for another practice in pads. He wants that one to go well enough that he is comfortable doing plenty of situational scrimmaging Saturday, when the team is hoping to show off for Phoenix-area fans at Glendale Community College beginning at noon.

“I’d like to be able to scrimmage and let the fans watch and have some fun,” he said. “If we don’t do well on Friday, then Saturday won’t be as entertaining as I’d like it to be.”

Arizona hadn’t practiced since March 7, taking a break for spring ball and to, hopefully, allow the players to digest some of the new information being throw their way. Rodriguez said before practice that he expected it could be “a little sluggish” and that the coaches would “try to yell them through that.”

Apparently, they didn’t yell loudly enough.

Rodriguez wondered afterward if the coaches were putting in too much of the playbook, that maybe the players were over-thinking on the field. But he said before practice that he thought the coaches have been moving deliberately.

“We’ve really limited our installation and are keeping it really simple,” he said.

“Maybe after this week we will be more than halfway through with what we want to put in on offense and defense. We might not go much further than that. … Our guys have so much to learn, so much to think about from a different scheme standpoint, that we’re just going to go slow with it.”

In any case, this is still a getting-to-know you experience for players and coaches.

“The first day in pads you’d think you’d be excited,” Rodriguez said.

“(I don’t know) if it was a spring break kind of hangover. … We’ll get it fixed. It starts with the coaching staff having things ready to have the type of practice I think a championship team has to have.”

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