The first practice of the Jedd Fisch era wasn’t exactly a picture-esque day, with cold rain and wind sweeping through the Arizona Wildcats’ practice fields.
Still, the first-year coach came away upbeat after more than two hours of work.
“Good start,” Fisch said. “Excited that we got out here, watched guys work hard, watched guys play hard, and I liked our energy, I liked our enthusiasm. Now we just have to improve upon what we’re trying to get done. So whatever questions y’all have, I’ll have a chance to answer them.”
Here’s how that interview went.
On determining the depth chart: “We use a lot of different criteria. Everything from how they competed in the weight room, how they competed in the win-first program, which was our strength and conditioning program outside. The running, the conditioning, how they competed in the classroom. We try to get our guys that have done the best job in the classroom up first, trying to be able to find ways to see who competed in the walkthroughs that we had with a towel out there. But who knew the plays? Who knew how to get us in and out of the right play? A lot of that was mental but it gives you an opportunity to get an idea of what they’re doing. And then we also use film from last season and we kind of had an idea of everybody’s skill set. And then from there, we put together a depth chart, which will be an ever-changing process in terms of a very fluid depth chart moving forward.”
On who stood out among the quarterbacks and receivers: “Yeah, I mean there were some good plays that were made. I think Will Plummer had a nice team period to end it right there. I think Gunner Cruz had some plays. (Luke) Ashworth got a couple good plays in there in the mix. (Kevin) Doyle had a shot or two, so I think we had about four quarterbacks get a good amount of the reps. Receiver wise, they all kind of made plays, some fluky plays. Jamarye (Joiner) made a fluky play over here, made a couple of tough catches. (Stanley) Berryhill made a couple of tough catches. Tayvian (Cunningham) made some good catches. The tight ends caught the ball well. I think that they all did some good and probably a lot not so good that we got to work on and we got to get better at, but it was the first day out there learning a whole new system, trying to do this fast, and trying to get going, and it’s a lot. But I think all the receivers, all the quarterbacks and really all the guys gave it their best shot today and we just got to be better on Thursday.”
On the quarterbacks learning to drop back from under center: “Yeah, it’s definitely different. It’s different for these guys when you’re under center and you’re doing drills from under center and you have to not count your steps but you’re told, ‘hey. this is a five-step, this is seven-step, it’s a three-step, but don’t count your steps.’ Don’t count steps, just be the guy that understands it. It’s going to come from a process of mental repetition and we just need to get them to the point that they have muscle memory. So it’s going to take a little bit longer for them to get there than probably if they were just constantly under center.”
On Plummer completing some deep passes: “Well, I like both being caught, completed, which was nice that we didn’t miss when we were open. I like the fact that he was able to go back to back, and not just hit one, miss one, that we’re able to actually string a couple together. Whether or not it was a dropped coverage, whether or not we were going no huddle and they kind of were still coming back. I mean, all that stuff’s gonna happen. It’s practice, right? Unless we had officials out here standing over the ball every time. So I just like the fact we actually caught it, threw it, and completed it three times in a row. That was actually a promising moment for us.”
On any leaders emerging: “There are some leaders out there that the strength and conditioning part of the program, that are strength coaches have given us, and now it’s time for us to kind of see. ‘Okay, now that we’re on the field, do those leaders continue? Is it the same leaders that we had in the weight room on the practice field?’ So we’ll just continue to evaluate that. We’ll have a Leadership Council at some point in time. But right now I think a lot of their heads are spinning, a lot of them are just kind of trying to figure out what’s next, what’s the next drill pretty hard and really lead at this point in time, the way to practice went. But I’m sure it will come soon.”
On transfers Gunner Maldonado and Gunner Cruz: “I love the fact that we got two Arizona kids back. We want to continue to build that pipeline. Guys in-state that either want to come back to the university or guys that are from the state that want to come to the university. And those two guys I think they both have great opportunity to be successful in our program. You’ve got Gunner the safety, you’ve got Gunner the quarterback, and both of them had a really good day in terms of what we’ve asked them to do.”
On guys trying too hard to impress their new coaches: “I’ll watch the tape but I don’t really believe in that. I don’t know about pressing too hard, trying too hard. I mean, I want them to try as hard as humanly possible. So if we can continue to try hard, we’ll get better and then the next time we’ll get better. What will happen is, things will slow down for them. It’ll slow down mentally for them but physically we want them to get faster. So the slower they have to go mentally, that they’re able to see it and feel it and understand what’s happening, the faster they’re gonna be able to run, and I think we’ll be able to take it to a better level that way.”