Arizona Wildcats could have different look in defensive backfield for Cal game

October 18, 2017

Notes and takeaways from the Arizona Wildcats’ media availability after practice Wednesday morning as the team continues to prepare for Cal:

* With Scottie Young Jr. (knee) unlikely to play Saturday, it appears that fellow freshman Troy Young will start at “Bandit” with Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles sliding over to free safety. This was one of the scenarios I laid out when Scottie Young’s status was in question earlier this month. Arizona also has a veteran fallback option in Kwesi Mashack.

* Mashack on Troy Young, who’s from Prichard, Alabama: “He looks like he came from the SEC.”

* One player who’s ensconced in the secondary is junior cornerback Jace Whittaker. He had two interceptions, including a pick-six, last week, despite his dad being in the hospital and being diagnosed with stomach cancer. UA coach Rich Rodriguez described Whittaker as “ultra-focused.”

* Rodriguez isn’t worried about quarterback Khalil Tate getting hurt, even though he has carried the ball 29 times the past two games. Rodriguez said pocket passers are just as vulnerable. He cited Aaron Rodgers and a “280-pound guy landing on him” Sunday. It was actually 255-pound Anthony Barr who broke Rodgers’ collarbone.

* Rodriguez expects teams to continue to load the box vs. Arizona and play “cover zero” at times. “You’ve got to have an answer for that,” he said. He said Arizona has more plays in its toolbox than it has shown the past two games. The Wildcats haven’t needed to show them, but they’ve been practicing those plays in case they do.

* Rodriguez said Tate has been able to find the right balance between having fun and being serious in his new role as Arizona’s starting QB. Tate on staying humble: “That’s just my personality. When people around me are happy, that’s my happiness right there.”

* Rodriguez said Arizona’s defense remains a “work in progress,” but he was pleased that the Wildcats played better vs. UCLA than Colorado. The arrow is still pointing up. I’ll have more on the defense in Part 2 of my midseason analysis later today.

* Rodriguez on recruiting: “Last year I thought we had a sneaky-good class. I think this year’s class is going to be really good too.” The rankings to date suggest this class won’t be as good as the last one.

* Rodriguez said Arizona is still seeking “a bunch” of offensive and defensive linemen for the 2018 class, which only has a handful of openings at the moment. Defensive coordinator Marcel Yates said the biggest needs on that side of the ball are D-line and cornerback.

* Rodriguez said the players’ approach to practice has been consistently good all year. They do have a little extra bounce for the Sunday-night walk-through and Tuesday-morning practice when they’re coming off a win.

* Arizona is 2-0 on the road. Rodriguez has been pleased with the maturity of the young players, who have handled those away games as “business trips.”

* With ex-Arizona assistant Charlie Ragle on the Cal sideline, Rodriguez said Arizona might make a few adjustments with its signals and terminology.