Pac-12 Media Day 2016: Arizona Wildcats

July 14, 2016

Hollywood, Calif.- Head coach Rich Rodriguez of the Arizona Wilcats spoke to the media earlier today. He was joined by senior DL Sani Fuimaono and senior WR Nate Phillips.

Here are some of the highlights from Rodriguez's time in front of the podium:

On the quarterback situation...

RICH RODRIGUEZ: We have in my opinion two returning starters. One that's more established in Anu Solomon, really good player, particularly when he's healthy. Last year he had some injuries. But he's got a challenge with Brandon Dawkins who played a little bit at the end of the year, has gotten better. So I think we're in a good situation where we have two guys competing for the starting job.

We've got a young guy Khalil Tate who's got on outstanding future, we think, and we're recruiting well at that position. But Solomon, Dawkins will go into camp splitting first-team reps, and we'll see who wins the job. I hope both of them prove that we can win with them and we'll play both of them throughout the year. I'm not typical where I think you've got to name a starter.

We treat the quarterback position pretty much like the rest of them. Just compete and play the best guy at the time.

On Anu Solomon specifically...

RICH RODRIGUEZ: The next step for Anu is simply be more consistent. Certainly health is an issue with that, but there are so many more things that we can do in our offense if the quarterback can handle it mentally, and he can handle a lot mentally, and we're going to put more on him.

Now, we're still going to call the plays just because I've always said we watch more film as coaches than the players do....But Anu is a really -- is a more competitive guy than sometimes he lets on. He's calm and you look at him, it doesn't look like he gets that excited, but he does. So it's important to him, but we're going to push him and have pushed him since the spring to take his game to another level, and I think he'll do that.

On comparing Solomon with Brandon Dawkins in terms of athleticism...

RICH RODRIGUEZ:  I don't know, that's a fair question. I think that's an assumption because he probably runs better, but Anu is a better runner than he lets on. I tell him, you're faster than you think. If they ran a 40 time, I think they'd be pretty close to each other, but Brandon is a long strider so he can separate a little bit. But athletically they're both pretty similar. They're pretty close.

...and arm strength...

 RICH RODRIGUEZ: Close, yeah. I think Anu has a tighter release. I don't know how far they throw it. It's like Khalil Tate can throw it 80 yards, but I don't have a single play on our offense that requires an 80- yard throw. I'm not too much worried about that. I'm more worried about accuracy and timing.

On QB prospect Khalil Tate...

RICH RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, Khalil Tate enrolled early. He was 17 years old, so he's a young guy. But everything is -- now he's still trying to figure it out, but he's a talented guy, and he's eager to learn. He's got a really neat skill set.

Yeah, I don't like to make up plays as you go, but I don't mind extending plays, and for him, he's such a talented runner. He's not fast, but he's big and he's strong and he's elusive. I think we'll probably -- whoever the best quarterback is will play, and whatever they do the best, whether it's throw, run, a little bit of both, that's what we'll call when they're in there.

But basically in the spring we just wanted Khalil to learn the base offense, and he got a little bit of that. I don't know how much he's progressed since then because we don't have as much contact with him in the summer, but in August camp he's going to get reps. It's not like we're going to say, Khalil, go to the scout team, redshirt. He's going to get reps, but he'll get reps after Brandon and Anu does.

He can throw it about 80 yards and he can run well, but we've got to make sure he's running in the right direction and throwing to our guys. When he does that, he's going to be okay.

On the opener with BYU...

RICH RODRIGUEZ: Trying to figure out what BYU is going to do has been the biggest challenge just because we don't -- even though we know who they hired and can check their background, you don't know for sure in the first game. So we're going back and studying what they did in the past, we're studying some high school film. I'm not worrying about that right now, but midway through August we'll start getting into that.

On the defense...

RICH RODRIGUEZ: Oh, yeah, I know what we're going to do on defense. In fact, when I hired a coordinator, which was a little bit unique, I wasn't looking so much for a scheme, because I think schemes are overrated, as much as I was looking for a personality and attitude. And I kind of set the parameters, this is what I want him to do.

But I'm not going to coach it or teach it, I'm going to let my defensive staff to do that. But I hired Marcel Yates who scheme-wise was really good, but more than anything I liked his personality, I liked the personality of the defense, and I know what we're going to do, I'm just not -- why tell anybody until we have to. I mean, it's not like it's a big secret, but for the first couple teams, they'll have to figure that out.

The most encouraging thing I saw from our defense was, again, just the renewed enthusiasm, and there's a lot of young guys out there. It sounds like coach speak, but hell, I don't really know how good we're going to be, I just know we weren't really good last year, and we need to get better.

By Manish Pandya
Editor for

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