Arizona Wildcats sophomore offensive tackle Fabbians Ebbele, who returned from suspension before the beginning of fall camp, is working toward getting back his starting job.
He once had the look of a four-year starter — not much in college football is more valuable than an offensive lineman with that kind of experience — but that was before a change in coaches, a change in offense and his involvement in an off-campus brawl in March.
He faced assault charges that were dropped in the summer, and Ebbele rejoined the team after missing almost all of spring practice.
“Now, I know I’m not starting, but that is motivation to me to work harder to get back to that starting spot,” he said after Thursday morning’s practice.
Ebbele started every game last season at right tackle, but, as is the case at many positions, first-year coach Rich Rodriguez is mixing-and-matching his personnel in fall camp, looking for the best combinations.
Ebbele has worked on both sides of the line, primarily competing with redshirt freshman Lene Maiava on the right side and also getting reps this week at left tackle, where returning starter Mickey Baucus is trying to reclaim that job.
Everybody is learning Rich Rodriguez’s read-option scheme.
“The difference is we’re not passive all the time,” Ebbele said of the different style of blocking in this offense, with more emphasis on the ground game. “We have to come off the ball and be nasty, move people.”
Maiava worked as the first-string right tackle in Saturday’s scrimmage, with Ebbele getting back into competition with the backup units.
He said he “got a little rusty” missing most of spring ball, adding that getting his conditioning up to Rodriguez’s standards was the hardest thing this summer.
“I feel great,” he said. “I’m making great strides and everything like that. I just feel real good.”
As for the legal trouble in the spring?
“Just the decision-making process,” he said about he had learned. “People you let influence your decision-making … I just have to be smart in what I do.”
RichRod on radio
Rodriguez appeared on the Bickley and MJ show on XTRA 910-AM in Phoenix on Thursday afternoon talking about he’s not focused so much on how many plays his offense runs each game but how many first downs it makes.
“Any time you have 25 or more first downs offensively, you’re having a huge game offensively and you’re controlling the game, not only from an offensive standpoint but you’re helping your defense out,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez sets the bar high, inasmuch as only 10 teams in the nation averaged 25 first down per game last season. Interestingly enough, one of them was Arizona. The Cats were eighth at 25.75 first downs per game.
None of Rodriguez’s teams at West Virginia or Michigan ever averaged 25 first downs per game.
Elsewhere in the interview, it hasn’t been of a topic anymore, but Rodriguez was asked about being charged up to prove himself after being fired from Michigan after three seasons.
“The thing that makes me bitter when I think about it — and I don’t try to think about it, but people bring it up — is I just felt we didn’t get a chance to finish the job,” Rodriguez said.
“We do all the hard stuff to enjoy year four and year five and every year after that … and we didn’t get a chance to finish the job. I think we’ll get a chance to finish the job here at the U of A.”
He said it
“The intensity is there most of the time, but I don’t think we finish plays like we need to finish plays. I don’t think we’re aggressive enough. I don’t think we play as hard as we’re capable of playing. I see some days, we play really hard all the time at all positions, but we have to have that all the time. That has to be given.” — Rodriguez after Thursday morning’s practice
*Craig Morgan takes a look at Arizona’s best-case, worst-case scenarios (CBSSports.com)
*Ted Miller did the best-case, worst-case thing on Wednesday, adding humorous touches to his predictions for the what-if futures (ESPN.com).
*An in-depth look at Torrey Pines offensive lineman Jacob Alsadek, who recently committed to Arizona (Rancho Santa Fe Review).
*Another feature story on a San Diego-area player committed to Arizona: Cornerback Derek Babiash (North County Times).
*Jerry Palm ranks every team in the nation. He has Arizona at No. 67 (CBSSports.com). As a side note, when I ranked the 124 FCS teams for Lindy’s magazine a few months ago, I put the Cats at No. 59.