Pac-12 Football Media Day: Arizona Wildcats

By Tyler Brett

The Pac-12 held their annual media day on Tuesday, where each team came to share their hopes for the coming season, and their thoughts on the offseason that was. Every team was represented by their head coach and two players, one from offense and one from defense. For the Arizona Wildcats, head coach Rich Rodriguez, quarterback Matt Scott and linebacker Jake Fischer came to Universal City to answer questions from the media. Video of the press conference:

What did we take away from their press conference?

1) The Arizona Wildcats are buying into the spread-option

The offense that made Rich Rodriguez famous at West Virginia has made the trip west with him to Arizona. Rodriguez is confident that the offensive scheme will make a seamless transition to the Pac-12, since he feels it would fit in anywhere. When asked if he felt that his offense would hurt recruiting, as it isn’t an offense readily used in the NFL, Rodriguez obviously refuted that. He pointed out that the NFL had started using much more shotgun formations with four wide receivers, postulating that perhaps the new new pro style is the shotgun spread. Besides, as Rodriguez points out, “if you can play, you can play,” pointing out that pro teams will find talent no matter what system they play in college. No matter, the school and its players believe this spread-option attack will work.

2) The Wildcats are going to pick up the pace

The biggest change Rodriguez has implemented since starting at Arizona is the pace of play. The tempo has been ratcheted up a few notches to simulate the non-stop offensive attack that a Rich Rodriguez offense is known for. Fischer has noted a difference, not only for the offense but also the defense, saying that every practice felt like they were playing against Oregon‘s vaunted blur offense, which will come in handy when the Wildcats travel to Autzen Stadium September 22. On defense, the Cats will switch to Rodriguez’s preferred 3-3-5 defense, which Fischer says has been a bit of a departure from what he’s used to, but in the end he sees all defenses as the same. This one just gives him more opportunities to blitz. The program was ripe for the sweeping changes Rodriguez has brought, as the school is hungry for success, which is exactly what attracted Rodriguez to the desert in the first place.

3) Rich Rodriguez is lucky to have Matt Scott around

If the Wildcats quarterback hadn’t been redshirted last season, senior Matt Scott wouldn’t be around this year. “Best decision that coaching staff made,” Rodriguez joked, but he isn’t far off. Beyond Scott, the Wildcats are short on quarterback depth, fielding a pair of walk-ons and working a wide receiver out in case of emergencies. Rodriguez is fortunate that Scott is around, as he has the skill set to run the spread-option attack, and calls the opportunity “a dream come true,” as he gets to return to the offensive scheme he ran in high school. Since the Wildcats will play with a shortage of signal callers in 2012, Rodriguez says he will do his best to protect Scott when it comes to running the ball, but that he would have to run the system. The Wildcats will hope for the best in terms of Scott’s durability and hope he’ll be able to take the beating Rich Rodriguez quarterbacks all have to endure. Otherwise, Rodriguez will have to turn to some very untested quarterbacks to run his offense.

In addition, Rodriguez also shared that cornerback Jonathan McKnight is recovering well from a knee injury. As of now, the coach says McKnight is back to 100 percent, but hasn’t been pushed at full speed yet. The team will likely limit him a little bit during the summer workouts and preseason, but that he’ll be good to go for the season opener against Toledo September 1.

The Wildcats were forced to make a coaching change midseason after a 1-5 start to the 2011 campaign. Rodriguez will be expected to turn things around in a hurry, and his explosive offensive scheme will be the biggest key to Arizona’s success.

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