Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez and some of his offensive staff haven’t hidden the fact that the starting quarterback job is by no means settled.
In a perfect world, Anu Solomon would be entering his third fall camp entrenched as the starter. But it’s not a perfect world. And the Wildcats had a far-from-perfect 2015. Solomon spent too much time off the field with injuries (which no one is blaming him for), and that gave Brandon Dawkins just enough time and just enough film to open the door to a competition.
Wildcats fans are best served by avoiding daily Twitter rumors and simply settling in for what could be a lengthy process.
“I’m not typical where I think you’ve got to name a starter,” Rodriguez said. “We treat the quarterback position pretty much like the rest of them. Just compete and play the best guy at the time. ... I think we’re in a good situation where we have two guys competing for the starting job.”
He’s not being coy. Nor is he trying to subtly send a message to Solomon. Anyone who has followed Rodriguez over his career knows nuance isn’t in his playbook. And if Dawkins makes his case in the fall, no one should be shocked to see him under center when the Wildcats open the season against BYU on Sept. 3.
But Solomon will and should be given every opportunity to reclaim his position. Despite the missed time last season, he tossed 20 touchdowns against just five interceptions. But the coaches want to see his completion percentage – which sits at 59.5 percent for his career – be in the high 60s this season.
“The next step for Anu is [to] simply be more consistent,” Rodriguez said. “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. ... 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.”
Dawkins (20-of-38, two touchdowns, two interceptions last year) has been pushing too – so much so that in the spring the coaches declared the competition wide open. It's a sentiment Rodriguez has echoed in recent weeks.
“I think the assumption is [Dawkins is the better athlete] because he runs better,” Rodriguez said. “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.”
The good news is, even with questions at the quarterback spot, the Wildcats have never slipped to the bottom half of the conference in scoring offense. The scheme puts up points. But when the right guy is at the helm, it works that much better.
“Solomon and Dawkins will go into camp splitting first-team reps, and we’ll see who wins the job,” Rodriguez said. “I hope both of them prove that we can win with them and we’ll play both of them throughout the year.”