The quarterback competition has been the biggest drama of the Arizona Wildcats’ fall camp, but coach Rich Rodriguez still isn’t sweating it just a few days before the season-opener.
“We could play two, three, four,” he said Monday about the QB race, adding a sly smile. “Four is probably the most.”
The game-week depth chart shed the thinnest of light, with senior B.J. Denker, junior Jesse Scroggins and redshirt freshman Javelle Allen separated by “or” on the two-deep.
The order of the listed names is somewhat telling in that Denker entered camp as the frontrunner and is still likely to take the Cats’ first snap of the season.
“But we have a couple of practices before the week is over,” Rodriguez said.
The key words that Rodriguez used Monday is that this is an “ongoing competition.” It was always going to be that way, barring the unlikely event that one of the six competitors in camp just ran away from the others in terms of production. The competition isn’t over. It might have just begun.
“I think they have all improved to some point,” Rodriguez said.
“I told them from the start, ‘We’re going to put a lot of pressure on you and make you feel uncomfortable in practice’ just to see how they would respond. And they all responded pretty well.
“They didn’t go in the tank when they had a bad play or (quarterbacks) coach (Rod) Smith and I were on them a little bit.”
RichRod has used two quarterbacks before and is comfortable with that process if the players seem close in ability. In his 11-1 season at West Virginia, he used Adam Bednarik and Pat White through half the season before an injury helped White, a freshman, take control of the position at the beginning of November.
“We don’t really treat the quarterback position any differently than any other position,” Rodriguez said. “I mean, you could be starting on Tuesday and not on Wednesday.”
He said he doesn’t see the need to have a clear No. 1.
“I know some coaches feel they have to have a guy that they rally behind at quarterback and all that,” Rodriguez said. “What happens if that guy gets hurt? What are you going to do, forfeit?”
Sophomore Nick Isham is next in line at quarterback, with true freshmen Anu Solomon and Khari McGee headed to redshirt seasons, barring severe bites from the injury bug.
Rodriguez said Scroggins, a junior college transfer who began his career at USC, is “trying to get caught up” after missing spring ball because of a toe injury and several fall camp practices (concussion, illness).
Allen rallied late in camp, getting back in the mix after falling behind in the spring when Rodriguez criticized his lack of conditioning.
“I think in his spring and summer workouts with the rest of the guys, he realized he had to come to camp in better shape,” Rodriguez said. “And he did. But he’s not that there yet.
“I think he saw that we kind of have more quarterbacks than anybody in the country. If you want to create a higher level of performance, bring competition in.”
That competition included Solomon, whose four-star rating in high school suggested he might immediately compete for the job.
“Solomon is still getting reps because we want to get him honed up and learning what we’re doing,” Rodriguez said.
“We’ve liked everything we’ve seen so far, but he’s behind the rest of the guys, and he should be because he hasn’t been here through a spring yet. But he’s had some good moments.”