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Back from ACL tear, Arizona’s Jacob Arzouman eager to work at center

Jacob Arzouman is trying to win the starting job at center. Photo by Brad Allis, WildcatSportsReport.com

Jacob Arzouman is trying to win the starting job at center. Photo by Brad Allis, WildcatSportsReport.com

It was a year ago today.

Arizona Wildcats offensive lineman Jacob Arzouman, after a redshirt season, after preparing all summer to play, after working with the first-team tackles through the early part of camp, tore up his ACL in a one-on-one drill in practice. And that was that for his season.

Welcome to rehab, Jacob.

“It’s really sad,” coach Rich Rodriguez said after that Aug. 6 practice.

A year later, Arzouman is back, he said the knee feels great … and when camp started last weekend he was once again out there with the first-string line, this time at center.

That position is the Cats’ greatest need on a promising offensive line, with new line coach Jim Michalczik having to replace two-year standout Kyle Quinn.

If Arzouman can’t handle it, junior college transfer Steven Gurrola will. If those options aren’t satisfactory, the coaches will look to senior starting guard Chris Putton to move to the middle, when he trained in the spring. (Putton otherwise will be the starting left guard, with Cayman Bundage probable at right guard.)

For now, Arzouman (6-5, 271) is “excited and happy” to be out there, emotions that came in contrast to how he felt a year ago, not that he wasted time feeling sorry for himself.

“I’m kind of a hothead. I got angry more than I got sorry,” Arzouman said.

“You need a little bit of that during rehab. Rehab gets long and boring, and sometimes you need a little bit extra to push you through.”

Arzouman, from Salpointe Catholic High School, wasn’t able to do much at all on the field in the spring, but he and coaches had planned for the tryout at center. A year ago, he might have been able to get into a tackle rotation with Mickey Baucus and Fabbians Ebbele, but those juniors are further entrenched now as third-year starters.

So, Arzouman worked on his shotgun snaps all summer in informal workouts with the team and hit the video room to study up on Quinn and his predecessor, three-year starter Colin Baxter.

“Those are good guys to follow,” said Arzouman, who has three years of eligibility left.

“I never had the pleasure to be here when Colin was here. But from what I saw from Kyle and what I heard about Colin was that they were tenacious. They wanted to be the best and they out-worked everybody. And that’s what I have to pick up.

“You have to win every rep and take everything personally.”

It’s a different world, from tackle to center, mentally and physically. It’s a spot where the self-described hothead can put his anger issues to work.

“You’ve got to be a lot tougher,” he said.

“Guys are a lot stronger, and I’ve just got to be able to hold my own against people. You have a whole lot less room for error on the inside. At tackle, you can mess up a little bit and the play might be OK. You mess up at center, you’re guy is making a play 100 percent of the time.”

Arzouman notes that, after rehab, he’s in the best shape of his life, although the first practice back was still an eye-opener.

“You kind of forget how different it is,” he said. “You condition run all summer, you feel you’re in great shape, and then you get out here and you forget how fast the tempo is. But it’s exciting.

“Overall, it’s just nice to be back.”

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