Arizona’s Rich Rodriguez: B.J. Denker is ‘our best option’ at quarterbackby Anthony Gimino on Oct. 01, 2013, under Arizona football
No quarterback controversy here.
At least for this week.
Not that Arizona Wildcats coach Rich Rodriguez is happy with his passing attack that is 117th nationally at 111.3 yards per game and has completed only one throw of greater than 20 yards to a wide receiver, but he doesn’t sound keen to make a change at quarterback.
Arizona is off until Thursday, Oct. 10, when it plays at USC. When it gets to Los Angeles, senior B.J. Denker — who doesn’t even show up among the top 100 quarterbacks nationally in passing efficiency — will continue to be the first-stringer.
He was 14 of 35 for 119 yards, with two interceptions, in a 31-13 loss at Washington on Saturday.
“We had a long meeting (Sunday) night and showed what we did wrong and talked to them,” Rodriguez said Monday in his weekly interview on 1290-AM (KCUB).
“It wasn’t a lot of fun for B.J. and it wasn’t a lot of fun for me and a lot of the rest of the guys in there. But, at the same time, we gotta get some things corrected.
“B.J. can play better than what he did. But he’s still our best option right now.”
It takes two things to make a change in personnel. The starter has to be struggling and there has to be confidence that the next guy can do the job. That second part is the hang-up right now.
This isn’t a case where Nick Foles is sitting there backing up Matt Scott. Back in 2009, those guys had a close and spirited battle in camp before Scott won the job before giving way to Foles after the third game.
Redshirt freshman Javelle Allen emerged late in camp as the second-stringer, but nobody has said his grasp of the offense is the equal of Denker’s, and there’s no evidence that his passing is any better. It wasn’t a close camp competition as it was in 2009.
That’s why the leash is going to be fairly long, and Rodriguez isn’t going to scramble the depth chart after Denker’s dreadful day amid the downpour in Seattle.
“There were some moments where he played pretty well, but not enough,” Rodriguez said.
Not enough, especially in the deep passing game, means it is going to be easier for defenses to contain All-American running back Ka’Deem Carey. His long run in a career-high 30 attempts at Washington was 13 yards.
Arizona’s lack of a passing threat meant it couldn’t dictate the Huskies’ defensive schemes.
“One of the things that was disappointing to us is that the look they were giving us didn’t change throughout the game,” Rodriguez said. “It was just that our execution wasn’t on par with what it can be.”
Rodriguez put blame on the coaches, adding about the offense, “We have to do a better job of trying to get them some easy stuff that we can back in rhythm with.”
Rodriguez, given the opportunity to answer a couple of questions about the passing game Monday, mentioned only second-stringer Allen by name among the backups. No word about Jesse Scroggins, Nick Isham or Anu Solomon.
The first option is having Denker and his young receivers work through their problems. In the meantime, practice competition will continue as always.
And then, we’ll see.
“If B.J. doesn’t progress and doesn’t play well,” Rodriguez said, “then we can make a change.”
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Junior running back Ka’Deem Carey is third in the nation in rushing, averaging 143.7 yards per game. He trails Washington’s Bishop Sankey (151.8) and Western Kentucky’s Antonio Andrews (145.4).
Carey was selected as the UA coaches’ Hard Edge Player of the Week, but no player earned a weekly award from the staff for offense, defense or special teams.
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Junior defensive lineman Dan Pettinato, returning from a knee injury, made his 2013 debut at Washington. He was in for 27 snaps, Rodriguez said, making one tackle.
“Every day that he practices, and certainly when he plays, he’s going to get his confidence back,” Rodriguez said.
Sophomore wide receiver David Richards also made his season debut, but he did not catch a pass.
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Arizona is 119th out of 123 teams nationally in passing efficiency with a rating of 92.37. Good news on the other side of the ball, though, as the Wildcats are 13th in pass efficiency defense, allowing a rating of 97.29.