Originally posted on Fox Sports Arizona  |  Last updated 3/2/13
TUCSON, Ariz. -- What a difference a year makes. A year ago at this time, Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez and his players didnt know what they were getting into, so there were plenty of struggles and limitations early. Rodriguez, who had been hired about three months earlier, said at the time that he was guessing at what he had. This year, he knows exactly what he has, and on Saturday, UA's first day of spring practice, Rodriguez saw what he said was a "night and day" difference compared with last year. The players did, too. Senior Richard Morrison said last year was like "going through a track meet." Not so much Saturday. Wide receiver Austin Hill said the team is better bonded this year and simply knows more of what to expect and whats in store for the remaining 14 practices. Arizona's camp culminates with the spring game on April 13. "I think we have a little bit better attitude because we know what we are getting ourselves into. Its fast-paced and (we arent) afraid to get yelled at. Last year we werent expecting to get yelled at, and there was a lot of cussing going around," Hill said, laughing. "Everything was so fast." A year later, with almost all of the players already one year into the system, it gets slowed down mentally. "Even though were going fast, you slow it down yourself," Hill said. "It was a lot more fun. Rodriguez said he appreciated his teams enthusiasm on the first day and called it a pretty good day. He also recalled the first day last year as being a bit different. "When we got halfway through with the popsicles (UA players are given them during breaks), they couldnt even walk to the popsicles, Rodriguez said. "Were not in shape right now, but they understand their routine. Theres a lot less stress in the effort than there was this time a year ago. He added, "Our practices arent long (an hour to 90 minutes), but they are pretty intense, Rodriguez said. We can get a lot more done in a matter of an hour 15 minutes than a lot can get done in two and a half hours. We move pretty quickly, but it does gas them." Not all players were able to participate, though, as spring availability wil be limited by more than a dozen injuries. "Im not going to panic ... as long as they are ready by summer workouts," Rodriguez said. As for the big question at quarterback in the quest to replace graduated starter Matt Scott, Rodriguez sounded as if there's a bit more urgency. Returning backup B.J. Denker is the presumptive No. 1 heading into spring ball, with 2012 transfer Nick Isham and redshirt freshman Javelle Allen also in the mix and highly touted freshman Anu Solomon set to arrive in the fall. "Like all of our returning players, we're expecting B.J. to have a better understanding of what we are doing," Rodriguez said. "We want him to be sharp mentally and physically, have a sense of urgency. I think he had a pretty good day. "I thought Nick Isham had a good day, and Javelle Allen is learning. We're going to put a lot of pressure on those guys, as much as you can in the spring, and try to simulate the pressure you face in the game." POSITION SWITCH Arizona is hurting on defense and has been since Rodriguez arrived on campus more than 14 months ago. Hes looking for depth at all positions. He may have gotten some help when Morrison, who played receiver last season after moonlighting at quarterback during spring ball, asked to be moved to cornerback. "It was really at his request," Rodriguez said. "I think he knows we need some competition there. He asked to move, and I think its going to be a pretty good move for us. Were down a few corners this spring, so hes going to get a lot of reps. Hes athletic enough to help us. I like Richard; hes a good football player. He really wants to play, he wants to prove himself." In other secondary news, Rodriguez said Jouron Grandon will be playing both free safety and cornerback. MEDICAL REDSHIRT Senior wide reciever Terrence Miller was on the field still awaiting word if hell be eligible to play after applying for a medical redshirt. He played in four games last year and missed the final nine after suffering an anklefoot injury. He actually missed some of the games because of a shoulder injury but reaggravated the foot injury before he was able to return. The NCAA standard is that a player cannot have played in more than 25 percent of his team's games (about three games in football) to receive a medical redshirt, but Rodriguez sounded optimistic. I dont know if it has been finalized yet, but we dont think there will be any issues," Rodriguez said.
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