A remnant of the Mike Stoops era at Arizona is still painted on a wall in the McKale Center weight room. It was his first slogan with the Wildcats: “Hard Work Beats Talent, When Talent Doesn’t Work Hard.”
Rich Rodriguez has a motto, too. His is more succinct:
“Shut up and work.”
Those are the four to-the-point words the Arizona strength and conditioning coaches put on the backs of T-shirts this offseason, saying it all about a football way of life under Rodriguez.
“That’s perfect in its simplicity,” Rodriguez said. “That’s what we want our guys to do, just shut up and work.”
You wouldn’t expect anything else from Rodriguez, the son of a coal miner who frequently reminds everyone that he doesn’t often have “Dr. Phil moments” and that the team isn’t a lot of holding hands and singing “Kumbaya.”
Miss a kick? Drop a pass? Whiff on a tackle?
Don’t whine about it. Don’t over-analyze it.
There’s one way to get better:
Just shut up and work.
The Wildcats, in their second season under Rodriguez, get to put the words into action on the field Saturday morning for the first of 15 spring practices, capped by an April 13 spring game.
Rodriguez vows nothing fancy. The coaches don’t have to spend time teaching scheme, as they had to do in 2012 when everything was new.
“This spring will be a lot more about fundamentals than it is about scheme,” he said.
“A lot of guys who were here last year understand how we’re supposed to work and how we approach things.”
And if they forget, they just need to look at the back of their T-shirts.
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Redshirt freshman cornerback Bryan Harper, touted to be one of the best athletes in Rodriguez’s first recruiting class, is no longer with the team. Arizona has lost four players from the 2012 class: Harper, defensive end Dylan Cozens (signed pro baseball contract), Akron transfer linebacker Brian Wagner (left team last summer) and safety Leo Thomas (left after a day or two of fall camp).
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Senior defensive tackle Tevin Hood and sophomore linebacker Cody Ippolito, who were sent home during the New Mexico Bowl after fighting on the Arizona sideline, are with the team and are a full-go for spring practice, Rodriguez said.
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Bruce Feldman of CBSSports.com picked his 10 most compelling storylines from the NFL Combine, including former Arizona quarterback Matt Scott at No. 4.
4. Matt Scott is the QB “sleeper” many scouts like. The former Arizona quarterback, who really only had one season as a full-time starter in college, is intriguing many personnel people and was the name I heard multiple times when I asked who was a sleeper to keep an eye on. Scott’s arm is strong. He can really zip throws into tight windows and that impressed people during the week at the East-West Shrine Game. Scott also ran in the 4.6s and was bigger and more physical than many figured he’d be. With the increased QB run game in the NFL, Scott is the mobile QB to watch this offseason in this suspect QB class.
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