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Arizona football notes: Rodriguez sees something of an urgency emergency

Jeff Casteel

Defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel tries to make a point during Saturday's scrimmage. Photo by Pat Shanahan, The Arizona Republic

The Arizona Wildcats might think new coach Rich Rodriguez’s fast-paced practices are arduous. And yet those two hours on the field still might be a more pleasant experience than not practicing.

Rodriguez canceled Monday’s practice — which was to be the fifth of the spring — in order to review with the team, in extended and perhaps gory detail, Saturday’s scrimmage at Glendale Community College.

The rumor was that Rodriguez just might have used a couple of curse words — or at least one over and over — while breaking down the scrimmage film. Shocking, we know.

“We’re still learning,” running back Daniel Jenkins said after Saturday’s scrimmage.

“I know Coach Rod demands perfection, and that’s what we’re trying to achieve.”

Rodriguez isn’t really expecting perfection at this early stage, but there seems to be something other than execution of plays — namely a laid-back vibe — that he doesn’t want to have to tolerate one second longer.

He talked at the beginning of spring about the players not being strong enough because they took too much time off from workouts during the coaching transition. “Effort” and “urgency” are two of his common themes in the offseason.

“I want our players to have a sense of urgency all the time, and not just when we’re practicing, but when we’re meeting,” Rodriguez said on Saturday.

“When they don’t have academic work or something else to do, I want them to have a sense of urgency to be the best player they can be. I told the team it’s OK to think about football more than just a couple of hours a week.

“Having that sense of urgency is important. If we want to take that next step and truly change the culture of Arizona football as far as our players understanding how important it is, then our players have to have that sense of urgency.”

Arizona is scheduled to practice again Wednesday.

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With starting right tackle Fabbians Ebbele suspended and three other tackles sidelined because of injuries, a pair of redshirt freshmen worked with the starting offensive line on Saturday. Jacob Arzouman, from Salpointe Catholic, worked at left tackle while Lene Maiava was at right tackle.

Senior center Kyle Quinn, the unofficial spokesman of the offensive line, said the up-front group “got better” Saturday and that line coach Robert Anae was pleased with the effort.

Quinn added that the scrimmage was “way more intense” than scrimmages under former coach Mike Stoops.

“It feels like a game environment,” he said. “The coaches bring that intensity every day in practice, and in the scrimmage they upped it up a notch.”

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Jonathan McKnight is being held out of contact while he recovers from an ACL injury suffered in fall camp, when he looked like the Cats’ best cornerback. In his absence, junior Derrick Rainey has been working with the first team, opposite returning starter Shaquille Richardson.

* * *

Something new: At the end of the scrimmage, the offense and defense formed two lines and then, hockey-style, the players all shook hands. Jenkins said the team does that after every practice.

“It’s neat,” he said.

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Former Arizona linebacker Lance Briggs of the Chicago Bears attended the scrimmage and then hosted Rodriguez and UA football alumni at his Phoenix-area house Saturday night. … ESPN college football analyst Mark May also attended the scrimmage, later tweeting “Arizona AD Greg Byrne and staff will OWN the state of AZ. very soon in all sports!” … Rodriguez said last week he likes the depth on the defensive line, which gives the coaches plenty of potential combinations. The starting unit for the scrimmage was end Dan Pettinato, tackle Jowyn Ward and nose guard Sione Tuihalamaka.

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