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When the Wildcats cross the new blue line, it’s time to practice in ‘beast mode’

Coach Rich Rodriguez wants the players' heads in the game when they cross this blue line. Photo by Anthony Gimino, TucsonCitizen.com

The Arizona Wildcats have no choice but to cross the thick blue line.

Upon coach Rich Rodriguez’s direction, Arizona has painted a blue arch on the grass across the entrance to the practice field, a colorful reminder to the players that it needs to be a different world once they step over the line.

“Once they cross the blue line, academics, personal issues and everything else has to go in the background and it’s all football,” coach Rich Rodriguez said before Wednesday’s practice.

“And when they cross back over, I hope they still think about football a little bit, but then their focus can go to other things as well.”

Rodriguez added the line since the last on-campus practice Friday.

After practice, quarterback/receiver Richard Morrison was standing just inside the line toward the entrance.

“If it’s just you and me talking here, we’re normal people,” he said.

“If I stand over here,” he added, taking a big step and putting his feet on the other side of the line, “it’s time to go into beast mode.”

Rodriguez might describe some of Arizona’s practice play as “beastly” but very little of it having occurred in “beast mode.”

If the blue line helps the team focus on the latter, all the better.

The coach called this an important week of practice — aren’t they all? — but it might be especially true as the coaches evaluate how the players respond from what Rodriguez considered a substandard scrimmage on Saturday.

He canceled Monday’s practice to focus instead on film review.

“I wasn’t really pleased after the scrimmage with the intensity and other execution issues,” he said. “After watching the film, I was even more displeased.

“But I think our guys understand. That’s the good part. I think we have a lot of guys who care and they understand they can perform or work at a higher level. That’s the one thing I have been pleased with — their attitude and their ability to listen and learn from it.”

Arizona, which has had only five spring practices under Rodriguez, is still in that learning mode. Senior receiver Dan Buckner sounds like he is one of the guys who understands the intentions behind Rodriguez’s sometimes-harsh critiques.

“It humbles some people,” Buckner said of the Monday film session.

“You’re going to be put on the spot in front of all your team. You don’t want to let your team down. It’s not to embarrass you. It’s not personal. He called me out. He called a lot of players out.

“I think we all came out and worked harder today. Me personally, I didn’t want to put the film on and let my teammates down, let my coaches down. What you put on the field, that’s your resume.”

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