Arizona Wildcats coach Rich Rodriguez isn’t saying anything definitive about the quarterback competition. He doesn’t have to. He doesn’t want to.
But the picture is becoming more clear, and with the Aug. 30 season-opener against NAU just a little more than a week away, I think we can call this one:
It’s B.J. Denker.
The preponderance of clues through camp have pointed in this direction. This is not a shock.
As a senior with game experience at Arizona, he was the tenuous leader coming of spring ball. He was the tenuous leader coming into fall camp.
He’ll be the tenuous leader coming out of fall camp.
Denker ran with the first-string in Saturday night’s scrimmage, performing well, better than the rest. Certainly, none of the other five contenders has made a significant charge.
We can eliminate two from the race — true freshmen Anu Solomon and Khari McGee. McGee was considered the longest of shots in the competition, but there were hopes that Solomon would be able to contribute after a standout career at Bishop Gorman High in Las Vegas.
“The freshmen aren’t ready to play,” Rodriguez said Wednesday night. “That part I know.”
Junior college transfer Jesse Scroggins has been sick in the past couple of days, another interruption of his fall camp that began with him on the sideline because of a concussion.
Redshirt freshman Javelle Allen is in better physical shape than he was in the spring and has improved during camp, Rodriguez said, but he still gives up age and experience to Denker. Sophomore Nick Isham has drawn praise at times for his work ethic and smarts, but he has some physical limitations.
Denker by default?
The left-hander also seems to be playing well as the season nears.
“I have challenged him more, and B.J. has responded to the challenge, more so in the last few days than before,” Rodriguez said. “He’s playing better. Good for him.”
According to his public comments, Rodriguez hasn’t been thrilled with any of quarterbacks, and none of them will be as good or effective as Matt Scott was for Arizona last season.
Rodriguez was asked if having three quarterbacks able to play is the optimum number. He responded: “Hell, I would be happy with one who could run the offense. If we could get two, that would be good. But they’re getting better.”
So, this hasn’t been a heavyweight battle. The quarterback competition has been mostly “meh.”
Efficiency, more than electricity, is probably where the bar is set for quarterback play, at least early in the season.
Denker puts confidence at the top of the list of attributes a quarterback must have, and he doesn’t seem to lack that, and his grasp of the offense is at least as good, probably better, than UA’s other QBs.
In terms of arm strength, he’s not Willie Tuitama or Nick Foles or even Scott.
Think more along the lines of ex-Cat Jason Johnson.
“The big thing for me is timing and accuracy,” Denker said.
“The more I’m on time and the more accurate I am, the better my arm looks. If I take the right drops and throw the ball on time, my arm will look better than it is.”
Rodriguez might name a starter this weekend. Or on Monday, when he holds a news conference to preview the NAU game. Or not at all until game time. Who knows?
But, for Game 1, starting Denker makes the most sense. He’s earned that.
Doesn’t mean he’ll be the starter for Game 2.
He’ll have to earn that, too.