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Efficient B.J. Denker helps his case in Arizona’s quarterback race

B.J. Denker takes a snap Saturday night. Photo courtesy Arizona Athletics.

B.J. Denker takes a snap Saturday night. Photo courtesy Arizona Athletics.

Arizona Wildcats senior quarterback B.J. Denker says he gets the same three questions these days from family, friends and strangers.

1. How is running back Ka’Deem Carey doing?

2. Are you going to be the starter?

3. Is the team going to be any good this year?

The first one is easy.

“We already know how good Ka’Deem is,” Denker said.

The other two questions are stumpers. Denker doesn’t have the answers. Coach Rich Rodriguez doesn’t have the answers. Anyone here have a crystal ball?

As for question No. 2, Denker inched closer Saturday night to being able to answer “yes.” He worked with the first-team offense in a practice/scrimmage at Arizona Stadium and ran the attack efficiently, if not with an abundance of pizzazz.

“I had a good practice,” he said.

“I didn’t force the issue. I ran the offense efficiently. Hopefully, I gave (the coaches) some confidence today. I got some confidence today, so that was good.”

Official stats weren’t kept, but Denker completed several passes in a row in leading a touchdown drive against the second-team defense in his first series. He later had the prettiest throw of the night, connecting on a 40-yard sideline pass to Trevor Ermisch, who made an over-the-shoulder catch.

Denker was not intercepted, which was what Rodriguez wanted to see.

“That was a bonus, because we’ve had problems with interceptions and forcing things,” he said of the overall quarterback play.

“I think we had one throw a quarterback made where he forced some things, but other than that, it was better from that standpoint. That had been our biggest problem — just throwing the ball into coverage and not taking off and running.

“Tonight, they did a better job of just running.”

Junior college transfer Jesse Scroggins worked with the second-team unit against the first-team defense and was intercepted late in the practice by cornerback Jonathan McKnight at the goal line. No doubt, he has a bigger arm than Denker and, while not known for his running, looks a like a fluid athlete when he take off down field.

Saturday night capped his first full week of practice, spring or fall, since enrolling at Arizona in January. He missed nearly all of spring ball because of toe surgery and was held out of a few early practices in camp because of a concussion.

“I’m feeling a lot more comfortable than a week ago, I can tell you that,” he said.

“Just players telling me, ‘We know you can do it’ and having less turnovers. I think I’ve progressed with being able to look over the defense and throwing it to where it should be.”

Redshirt freshman Javelle Allen was next in line to take the field but didn’t make much of an impact. True freshman Anu Solomon, who worked with a group of third-stringers, hasn’t separated himself from his elders, so would appear to be headed for a redshirt season.

Sophomore Nick Isham came in later with a group of mostly second-teamers, quickly getting on the board when reserve running back Terris Jones took a swing pass and took it 25 yards for a score.

True freshman Khari McGee played briefly, intercepted by redshirt freshman safety Tellas Jones, who joined the team this summer after redshirting at Fort Scott (Kan.) Community College.

Arizona will pack in eight practices between Monday and Saturday … and then it’s game week as the Cats prepare for NAU on Friday, Aug. 30.

“The quarterbacks aren’t close (to where they should be),” Rodriguez said. “But they’re closer than they were a week ago.”

While the clock is ticking on the quarterback race, Rodriguez hasn’t been in a rush to either name a starter or posit a plan on how he will use his personnel. He isn’t opposed to using two QBs, if need be, at least early in the season.

“I can’t worry about who did better or not,” Denker said.

“I have to worry, did Coach think I made the plays necessary for us to win, for us to move the ball. That’s all I have to think about.

“If I play the way I should play, and do the things I’m supposed to do, then everything will fall into place. I don’t want to be the starter Game 1, I want to be the starter throughout the season.”

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