After Arizona’s weather-delayed scrimmage finally ended Saturday night, Wildcats coach Kevin Sumlin entered the Lowell-Stevens Football Facility and asked what time it was.
Told that it was 9:03 p.m., Sumlin quickly calculated that Arizona would be about halfway through the second quarter of its season opener against BYU – in just three short weeks.
One got the feeling that Sumlin wished he had more time.
Although he has been Arizona’s coach since January, and has guided the Wildcats through 23 practices, Sumlin is still figuring out exactly what he has. He knows this UA squad has a star quarterback, good skill-position players and a promising defense led by a linebacking unit that just might be the team’s strength.
But the offensive line is still a jumble, and Sumlin isn’t sure how it’s all going to come together.
Asked what his biggest concern is, Sumlin said: “Where do I start? If you’ve ever been a coach, you don’t have a biggest concern – it’s all concerns. Just being honest. You don’t know what you’ve got until you play, particularly in a league you’ve never played in. … How we’re going to get here for game day, I don’t even know yet.”
Sumlin learned a little more about his team via the scrimmage. Despite the delay, the Wildcats were able to run 115 plays. That should help Sumlin and his staff with their next task – determining which 65 to 80 players are worthy of the travel squad and significant roles.
The composition of that group is subject to change early, and even late, in the season. The new redshirt rule, which enables players to participate in up to four games without losing a year, will be a big factor, Sumlin predicted.
The offensive line definitely will have a new look by Week 3. That’s when three-year starting left tackle Layth Friekh is eligible to return after sitting out the first two games because of an NCAA ruling.
Sumlin and his staff will use every opportunity over the next three weeks to figure out the best five without Friekh.
“When Layth comes back, it changes things a lot,” Sumlin said. ‘We’ve got a couple issues. He’s got experience. It’s really about the first game (for now). It can be solidified later on.”
Bryce Wolma and his fellow tight ends are in a unique position on the UA football team: Their coach happens to be the head coach.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” Wolma said of getting hands-on instruction from Sumlin “He’s been around the game so long. He knows so much about offense. It’s been nice, because he’s really focused on our group during practice. Him being the head coach, you’d think he’d be doing a lot of (other) stuff.”
Wolma said Sumlin meets with the tight ends before practice and watches film with them afterward, just as any other position coach would.
Sumlin played linebacker at Purdue but mostly has worked on the offensive side of the ball since launching his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Washington State in 1989-90.
Sumlin was the special-teams coordinator and tight ends coach at Oklahoma from 2003-05 before becoming the Sooners’ co-offensive coordinator and receivers coach.
- Sophomore safety Scottie Young Jr., who was reinstated from suspension Friday, participated in warmups. He needs to go through the standard acclimatization period before he can practice in full pads.
- Starting cornerback Jace Whittaker and projected starting center Nathan Eldridge were among the players who did not participate in the scrimmage. Azizi Hearn joined Lorenzo Burns as the first-team corners. Look for grad transfer Tim Hough to crack the top three sooner than later.
- Sophomore “stud” Kylan Wilborn had two tackles for losses and 1.5 sacks during the initial series of the scrimmage, which was open for media observation.
- Redshirt freshman K’Hari Lane was the second quarterback to play after Khalil Tate.
- Newly arrived Dylan Klumph punted four times during the open portion of practice. The first forced Shun Brown to retreat toward the end zone; the fourth sent Stanley Berryhill III to the left sideline.
- Offensive lineman Robert Congel and linebacker Santino Marchiol – two transfers from Texas A&M – are not eligible for 2018 as of now, Sumlin said. The school is still looking into the matter.
- A few dozen parents and family members of the players attended the scrimmage, sitting in the west-side stands. When the rain started about 6:15 p.m., they scurried for cover. Shortly after, the players and coaches exited the field as well. The weather delay lasted about 50 minutes.
- The parents included Rita Rodriguez, the mother of sophomore quarterback Rhett Rodriguez and wife of Rich Rodriguez, whom Arizona fired in January after six seasons.
- A scout from the Cardinals attended part of practice.