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Arizona Wildcats QB battle begins this weekend, won’t be settled until August

B.J. Denker

Arizona’s B.J. Denker connected on 12 of 14 throws in the win over Colorado. Photo by Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Wildcats will start spring practice Saturday without two of their leading contenders to be the starting quarterback in 2013.

True freshman Anu Solomon, the centerpiece of the recruiting class, doesn’t arrive until the summer. And junior college transfer Jesse Scroggins, who is on campus, is recovering from foot surgery.

“It’s something he probably needed to get fixed earlier in his career,” coach Rich Rodriguez said Tuesday.

“We had a choice. We could maybe try to play with it, but I’d rather have everybody 100 percent in August than have a question mark.

“He’ll be very limited this spring. We’re not sure what he can do. He won’t be in any full contact, but at least he’ll be able to sit in those meetings and learn schematically what we want to do.”

That’s more than Solomon can do right now, but not being around for spring ball — which starts Saturday for the Cats — isn’t the disadvantage it used to be, Rodriguez said. So don’t dismiss Solomon’s chances of winning the job in the fall as the replacement for Matt Scott, who had a strong performance at the NFL Combine this weekend.

“The spring, it’s important, but there are only 15 practices,” Rodriguez said.

“In the days when you had 20 practices, and all were in full pads, it was a little more valuable. Plus, your players weren’t around in the summer.

“Nowadays, the high school kids can come in the summer and work out and train with the whole team, and they teach each other a lot in the summer. You’re a little bit ahead as a quarterback or at any position if you’re here in the spring, but not so far ahead that a guy can’t come in and win a job.”

For spring, the main quarterback competitors will be senior B.J. Denker, redshirt freshman Javelle Allen and sophomore Nick Isham, a sophomore walk-on transfer who has starting experience at Louisiana Tech. Walk-ons Alex Cappellini and Jack Nykaza round out the quarterback depth chart.

Denker will be the only quarterback who has Arizona experience, having started one game last season. He performed well against Colorado … but there’s not much to be drawn from that as the Buffs were horrible and Ka’Deem Carey did the heavy lifting for the offense with a Pac-12 record 366 rushing yards.

“B.J. Denker has proven himself a little bit. He’s played some. But he’s the only one. He’s got to get better,” Rodriguez said. “I’m anxious to see how much better he’s gotten in the spring.”

Allen was a three-star recruit from Prosper, Texas. The 6-2 quarterback was listed at 204 pounds in last season’s media guide. Arizona lists him at 223 this spring.

“Javelle had to get in shape,” Rodriguez said.

“I called him ‘Chubby’ enough times that I think he took it to heart. He’s worked pretty hard. From what I’ve seen, he’s in pretty good shape.”

Rodriguez said Allen is “a guy who has got some talent” and he called the 6-foot Isham “a smart guy.”

Arizona won’t be adding any new wrinkles to the offense this spring, the coach said, so the guys taking snaps should be fine with the scheme after a year of experience with the playbook.

“We just really want to work on fundamentals,” Rodriguez said.

The coaches chart throws and keep stats from practices, but Rodriguez said there is no magic mathematical formula to picking a quarterback. And there is no hurry. Spring will be the start of the process. He’s fine going into fall camp lacking an established depth chart at any spot.

“I’ve been doing this long enough,” Rodriguez said of evaluating quarterbacks. “I know if a guy is progressing well enough that we feel good that we can win with him.

“It’s not so much about finding a starter; it’s about finding guys we think we can win with. Hopefully, there is more than one. We hope to find two or three at every position. That’s a question right now. We don’t know that.”

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