Arizona Football Spring Practice Preview: A Lot Of Schematics

Begins: March 5

Spring game: April 14

The next couple weeks will carry a distinctly different flavor for Arizona. Gone are Mike Stoops, interim coach Tim Kish and quarterback Nick Foles.

In other words, hello RichRod.

The former Michigan and West Virginia headman took over the reins last November, then pieced together a recruiting class and now begins preparations for his first season in Tucson -- a season, though, that's still some months away.

You could say it feels a bit different.

The Wildcats, who begin spring workouts on Monday, will break in a new spread-option offense, a new 3-3-5 "stack" defense under coordinator Jeff Casteel and a new starting quarterback.

On offense, gone are the team's leading passer in Foles, leading rusher in Keola Antolin and leading receiver in Juron Criner.

Luckily, Arizona isn't the only team in the Pac-12 South undergoing some administrative changes this time of year. Both Arizona State and UCLA have new coaches in Todd Graham and Jim Mora, respectively. Both were hired more than a month after Rodriguez, too.

So it's likely safe to assume that the ‘Cats will spend a fair amount of time this spring acclimating to their new schemes, as well as coaches adjusting to new personnel. It's sort of why spring practice exists to begin with.

Oddly, though, even as Rodriguez's squad will be without Foles and Criner, who were each the focal point of Arizona's passing attack a season ago, things might turn out OK (note: UA ranked third nationally in passing yards/game with 370.8 in 2011).

Expected to take over under center is senior Matt Scott (pictured), who redshirted last fall. As a sophomore in 2009, Scott was beaten out by Foles for the starting gig, and as a result, largely sat on the bench for the last three seasons. In the meanwhile, Foles put up all-conference type numbers.

But it's now Scott's turn and with his mobility, there is the underlying hope that he could more than adequately adjust to Rodriguez's spread-oriented attack. During a 29-21 win against UCLA at the Rose Bowl in 2010, Scott ran the ball 12 times for 71 yards. One week before, Scott, starting in place of an injured Foles, tossed two touchdown passes and ran for 65 yards on seven carries in a win over Washington.

He's not exactly Pat White or Denard Robinson, but he'll have to suffice.

So for the time being, defense might have to be Arizona's calling card. There are a handful of losses, including its top two tackers in senior linebackers Derek Earls and Paul Vassallo, sure, but it has some depth, especially in the secondary, which will be increasingly important under the team's new 3-3-5 scheme.

Safety Marquis Flowers, who finished with 68 total tackles and one interceptions a season ago is back. Others such as cornerback Shaquille Richardson, safety Tra'Mayne Bondurant and cornerback Jourdon Grandon round out what might prove to be the team's best overall unit.

Year one for Rodriguez at Michigan in 2008 was disastrous. The Wolverines finished with just three wins and ninth in the Big Ten. With some experience at quarterback and on defense, the notion is that a similar fate doesn't necessarily await Rodriguez at Arizona. It's early, but depending on how well players adapt this spring, will likely reveal how smooth the transition will be this fall.

Follow Joey on Twitter @joeyrkaufman

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