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Arizona Wildcats’ quarterback race sputters out of the gate

Rich Rodriguez and the Arizona Wildcats opened camp Saturday night at the Kindall/Sancet practice facility. Photo courtesy of Arizona Athletics.

Rich Rodriguez and the Arizona Wildcats opened camp Saturday night at the Kindall/Sancet practice facility. Photo courtesy of Arizona Athletics.

The Arizona Wildcats’ quarterback race — and their fall camp — began Saturday night with what coach Rich Rodriguez best summed up in one word: Uneven.

First, the quarterbacks.

Junior college transfer Jesse Scroggins, who missed all of spring game other than part of the final scrimmage after toe surgery, will have to wait a little longer to make a statement. He suffered a concussion when hit in the head in a recent workout, Rodriguez said, adding he was hopeful Scroggins would be cleared for Sunday night’s practice.

True freshman Anu Solomon fumbled the first snap of his first practice and was picked off three times by Tra’Mayne Bondurant during passing drills, one coming on a nice leaping grab by the safety. (Solomon did connect on a nice deep sideline throw to redshirt freshman Clive Georges, though.)

And senior B.J. Denker, who might have earned slight consideration as the pre-camp favorite based on his year of experience in the system and one start last season, got an off-color earful from Rodriguez at one point when Denker forced a pass into coverage.

Denker had been requested for post-practice interviews, but RichRod shut that down.

“He won’t be talking to you today,” Rodriguez said. “Does that give you an idea of what I thought of his performance?”

At Pac-12 Media Day last month, Rodriguez said Denker can handle hard coaching.

“He doesn’t lack for confidence, so I’m not worried about ripping him,” Rodriguez said. “I expect B.J. to be pretty good.”

B.J. Denker

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

Rodriguez added that Denker is competitive, has been working hard and is “in good shape,” so that’s not an issue. It’s just that, as he said Saturday, “the execution in the passing game should be a whole lot better, even with new wide receivers, than it was today.”

Sophomore Nick Isham, redshirt freshman Javelle Allen and true freshman Khari McGee were also in the practice rotation at quarterback. Texas transfer Connor Brewer, who committed Monday, is in camp and took some reps early in practice. He is not eligible in 2013.

There might not be a quick resolution to the quarterback battle. Rodriguez isn’t worried about naming an opening-game starter by a certain time. It could be in warm-ups for NAU on Aug. 30.

“Whatever happens, it happens,” he said.

“I hope we have at least two guys who kind of emerge. If not, it might take a couple of games to figure out who is the best guy.”

Elsewhere, Rodriguez was disappointed in the conditioning of some upperclassmen.

“Got a handful of guys who are going to be doing a little bit extra to get in shape,” he said. “They just don’t understand what it takes to be an elite athlete. An elite athlete doesn’t show up in August and expect to be ready. …

“They have to live and train and prepare and eat like an elite athlete. If they don’t, then it shows up. It shows up on the first day of practice.”

In all, it wasn’t anything too unusual. Saturday night was just a small step of the process. Rodriguez joined a chorus of other head coaches all over the country in saying his team, after putting one practice on video, “has a long ways to go.”

“If I sugarcoated anything, they would think something was wrong with me,” Rodriguez said.

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