Monday, August 25, 2014
Rodriguez taps Anu Solomon as his starter
By Kevin Gemmell
The Arizona Wildcats have their quarterback. At least for snap No. 1. After that, well, we'll see.
Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez named redshirt freshman Anu Solomon his starting quarterback for Friday night's season-opener against UNLV, temporarily putting to rest all the questions about who would replace B.J. Denker.
Rodriquez's announcement, however, came with a caveat.
"Anu Solomon will be the starter Friday night," Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said. "That doesn't mean that he plays the whole game and that he will be the starter the rest of the season."
"Anu Solomon will be the starter Friday night," Rodriguez said Monday at his first weekly news conference of the season. "That doesn't mean that he plays the whole game and that he will be the starter the rest of the season. But I also don't want any quarterback to ever go in thinking as soon as I make a mistake I'm coming out."
Take that for what it's worth. Last season there was also chatter that multiple Arizona quarterbacks would see time early in the season. Yet Denker ended up attempting 381 of Arizona's 383 passes 2013.
Which led Rodriguez to this: "I'm confident that Anu will play well, and he will be the starter as long as he plays well and we win."
Solomon bested a trio of transfers -- USC transfer Jesse Scroggins, LSU transfer Jerrard Randall and Texas transfer Connor Brewer -- for the starting gig. This represents the first time that a Rodriguez high school recruit has been the starting quarterback. Matt Scott was a holdover from the Mike Stoops era and Denker was a JC transfer.
The Wildcats open 2014 with three of their first four at home -- all against unranked teams. Which means Solomon, who becomes the first Arizona freshman to start since 2005, will benefit from not having to face A-list teams early on. But he doesn't have much time to get comfortable, because Arizona's next four feature a trip to Oregon, a home date with USC and then back-to-back road games at Washington State and UCLA.
"The coaches, and myself particularly, felt that he was playing the best out of all four quarterbacks," Rodriguez said. "I think he's got a good feel for the game and I want to make it clear it's not like he did this thing and these other guys didn't. I just think he did more things better on a consistent basis for him to start."
That might not sound like a ringing endorsement, but for Rodriguez, it's good enough. Keep in mind that while the Wildcats have to replace All-America running back Ka'Deem Carey, they also have one of the deepest wide receiving groups in the country. Headlined by 2012 Biletnikoff semifinalist Austin Hill (who missed all of 2013 with a knee injury), the rotation of pass-catchers is impressive. He also has one of the more experienced offensive lines in the conference protecting him.
And through Rodriguez' system and coaching, Denker threw for 2,516 yards (61 percent) and rushed for 949 and 13 touchdowns.
By picking youth, Rodriguez might finally be able to shape and groom a quarterback for this season and beyond. Something he hasn't been able to do yet in Tucson. The hope is that through experience and seasoning, Solomon could be pretty darn good. But all the Wildcats really need is for him to be good enough for now.