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Matt Scott showing solid grasp of new offense halfway through spring

Matt Scott receives instruction from quarterbacks coach Rod Smith in practice last week. Photo by Anthony Gimino, TucsonCitizen.com

Arizona Wildcats quarterbacks coach Rod Smith walked by senior Matt Scott, doing an interview after Saturday’s scrimmage, and yelled, “Don’t ask him how many reads he missed today!”

Scott might have missed a few more reads than the demanding coaches would have liked, but as far as growing pains go, the quarterback seems to be doing fine halfway through the first spring in coach Rich Rodriguez’s read-option offense.

“Matt has probably grasped it as well as any first-spring guy I’ve had,” Rodriguez said after the scrimmage at the Jimenez Practice Facility.

“It’s because he’s a veteran guy. He already has the fundamentals down. He has been coached well before. That part was easy. Now, it’s just a matter of him learning the plays and learning the defenses.

“He made some mistakes today that he didn’t make before, but he’ll learn from them. It’s very important to Matt, and that’s a good thing.”

Scott, wearing a red No. 10 jersey — the color signifying that he was not to be hit — completed 13 of 20 passes for 244 yards and a touchdown in Saturday’s scrimmage, the second of the spring. The touchdown came on a fade pass to Garic Wharton along the right sideline.

Scott showed nice touch on that throw but might have become too enamored of his finesse later in the scrimmage on deep throws. At one point, Rodriguez exhorted him to “throw the football.”

Mostly, Rodriguez says he is pleased with Scott so far, although he adds that the quarterback could be reaching “information overload” right now.

Said Scott: “We’ve put a lot of things in lately, so I’ve been picking things up one play at a time. The reads on certain plays have kind of mixed me up, but we have a long spring still. As we progress through spring, I’ll get better on that.”

Rodriguez admits that he has high standards for the offense — after all, he basically developed and honed this attack in the past 20 years — but he’s going to have to be patient.

He might be not able to install the full offensive playbook until his second year. And Rodriguez can’t completely turn Scott loose in the quarterback run game because of the team’s perilous depth at the position.

The defense isn’t allowed to tackle Scott this spring. And Rodriguez has said a couple of times recently that he won’t run the quarterback as much this season as he often did at West Virginia and Michigan, all in an effort to protect Scott.

“Matt is probably most dangerous when he’s out on the perimeter with the threat to run and throw,” Rodriguez said. “We have those plays in and he’ll understand them. But he’s not getting hit at all this spring.

“I don’t question his toughness. He’s a tough, competitive guy. … If we have to run him to win a game, we’ll run a few times for sure.”

Rod Smith

Quarterbacks coach Rod Smith works with Alex Cappellini at practice last week. Photo by Anthony Gimino, TucsonCitizen.com

The coaches would like to at least have a chance to evaluate junior Richard Morrison at quarterback, but an injury to his pectoral muscle has limited him to only a handful of plays in two scrimmages. Morrison, a high school quarterback who switched to receiver after redshirting as a freshman, says he hopes to be ready to throw in next weekend’s scrimmage.

Other than that, Arizona has sophomore walk-ons Tyler D’Amore (12 of 17 for 84 yards and a touchdown on Saturday) and Alex Cappellini (4 of 5 for 39 yards). Freshmen Javelle Allen and Josh Kern arrive in the fall.

Unlike Scott, D’Amore and Cappellini wear white jerseys and allowed to be hit in the spring.

“I kind of want a white jersey,” Scott said.

“Sometimes, the officials say I’m down when guys are just tapping me on the hand. I know some people say I won’t get hurt. But I don’t care. I want a white jersey.”

That is going to have to wait until the fall. In the meantime, with seven of 15 spring practices remaining, he’ll work on making a few more good reads.

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