Is there anything more taxing than a quarterback battle?
If you didn’t spend your whole weekend calculating your annual contribution to the IRS you may have taken in the Arizona Wildcats’ spring football scrimmage on Saturday. And if you sat in the sun at Kindall Field/Sancet Stadium or tuned in to the Pac-12 Network I know you focused intently on the guys in the red jerseys calling signals.
Who is going to be the next quarterback to run Rich Rodriguez’s offense? Here’s what we know, what we don’t know, and what we can guess.
It was disappointing that half of the competing quarterbacks weren’t able to play due to injury. Is Javelle Allen faster than B.J. Denker? What kind of arm does Allen have? Do the skills that made Nick Isham a freshman starter at Louisiana Tech translate to the Pac-12?
The answers to these questions will remain hidden from public view until the fall and so all the talk is going to center around Denker, last year’s backup, and Jesse Scroggins, the former USC player who saw his first live action on Saturday.
The starting quarterback job certainly isn’t going to be won or lost in a single scrimmage, especially when Rodriguez said they only used a couple coverages on defense.
“We see more in practice than in a scrimmage,” Rodriguez said.
But as the long summer awaits, you take all the fuel for your football debates that you can get.
Denker has the experience edge and it showed on Saturday. The senior lefty knew when to throw it and who to throw it to. He didn’t hesitate when there was an opportunity to tuck the ball and run, and he showed good speed on the edge.
Rodriguez said, “I’ve seen (Denker) make a lot of strides this spring. Getting more confident, having great eye discipline, making the right decisions.”
The confidence is certainly there. When asked about his strengths Denker said, “I’m a leader on and off the field and I’m the smartest guy on the field. There’s nobody that knows this offense better than me and there’s nobody that knows football better than me on the offense and defense side of the ball.”
Scroggins has the look of a quarterback: tall, strong, big arm. He has a smile you could put on a billboard. If this was the Arizona QB battle of 2009, Scroggins would be Nick Foles.
“I’m naturally a drop-back passer,” Scroggins said, “but you’ve got to push your game even further. (Throwing on the run) is another tool I can use.”
Another similarity to Foles four years ago is Scroggins is the new transfer trying to unseat the previous year’s number two. But after seeing Matt Scott last season, if Rodriguez was coaching here in 2009 I’m not so sure Foles wins the job.
(It’s also worth noting that if RichRod was coaching here four years ago he would’ve been making about $2.5 million a year which would have meant T. Boone Pickens had moved to Tucson.)
Competition is going to be the name of the game all summer and into the fall and both quarterbacks in the spring spotlight know it.
“He’s going to be a good weapon,” Denker said of Scroggins. “We’re going to compete with each other and make each other better.”
Scroggins said, “As a competitor, as tall as I am, as much as I weigh, with all my might I’m going to compete.”
You can’t predict the future based on one scrimmage so…I’m going to try and predict the future based on one scrimmage.
I will be surprised if B.J. Denker is not Arizona’s starting quarterback against Northern Arizona on Aug. 30.
Not only are the other guys having to play catch-up but the UA can win all three games on its less-than-daunting non-conference schedule with last year’s Colorado gameplan: Ka’Deem Carey left, Ka’Deem Carey right, fake Ka’Deem Carey up the middle and send Denker around end.
The real question is who will be The Guy when Pac-12 play starts on Sep. 28? Or, more importantly, who is the starter after the first Pac-12 loss? That will be the QB RichRod thinks gives him the best shot to continue his climb back among the national elite.
Now, if there are no injuries involved and Denker is not the starting quarterback against NAU I would take that as a very positive sign for the Wildcats. Denker has looked solid and done nothing to lose the job so if he doesn’t end up with it, it means another quarterback was outstanding in fall camp.
Scroggins was asked on Saturday why he chose Arizona and he said, “Coach Rod told me, ‘I’m going to give you a fair shot, a fair opportunity and may the best man win.’”
Until that best man is named, may the best summer debaters win.
– – – – –