This was not the way it was supposed to go down. At least not to all of the outside observers.
With an open competition at quarterback after the graduation of BJ Denker, it sure appeared as if the next quarterback in line was going to be one of three high profile transfers. Jesse Scroggins (USC), Jerrard Randle (LSU), and Connor Brewer (Texas) all came from major programs and were highly touted recruits coming out of high school, but ultimately ended up losing out on the opportunity to be the opening game starter to redshirt freshman Anu Solomon.
But when Rodriguez named Solomon the starter for the UNLV game, he also added this caveat:
"That doesn't mean he'll play the whole game and that he will be the starter the rest of the season. But I also don't the want the quarterback to go in thinking as soon as I make a mistake I'm coming out."
Considering Solomon's nickname is "Chill", I don't think he'll be affected by Rodriguez' non-committal stance. That attitude is probably a big reason why Solomon was able to win the job after a good fall camp.
I'm sure most Arizona fans know a little bit about Solomon. I'm sure it's common knowledge to them that he went 57-3 with four state championships during his high school career at Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas. When you consider the talent that consistently comes out of that program though, it isn't enough to mention that win-loss record and expect similar results in Tucson.
So what can we expect from Solomon at quarterback for Arizona? I broke down some of Solomon's film from his senior year at Bishop Gorman. and this year's Arizona spring game to see what kind of quarterback he projects to be in the Pac-12.
For the most part, I really liked what I saw from Solomon's senior film. He was balanced with good feet in the pocket and displayed nice touch on his passes. When he had a clean pocket, he almost always delivered the football accurately and on time.
He did a great job of throwing the football on the run, which is obviously something that is important in Arizona's offensive scheme. He would get his shoulders square and have the proper footwork to deliver the ball where it needed to go. His mobility outside of the pocket was great. He showed the ability to escape the rush, yet didn't always tuck it and run. He kept his eyes down field and was looking to make a play with his arm and allowed his receivers time to get open.
As a runner, he showed he was capable of making tacklers miss in the open field. He has the ability to do some damage with his legs, but was not someone who was dynamic enough to break 60 yard runs.
The things that stood out to me that I didn't like were his overall arm strength and inconsistent mechanics when throwing to his left. He flashed on a couple of impressive deep throws, but also left some balls hanging in the air for some receivers and had pretty average zip on the ball. As far throwing the ball to his left, I noticed that he would fade away rather than stepping into some of his throws in that direction and the ball would float a bit more than I was comfortable with. It's a correctible issue though and is fairly common with a lot of right-handed quarterbacks.
Overall, I can see why he was considered a 3 star according to the 247Sports composite rankings, but also a 4 star by Rivals and Scout. He showed really good potential.
Here's some highlights from his senior season:
Yeah, I know. It's a spring game. The quarterbacks are supposed to look good. But I saw some things during the game from Solomon that really impressed me and made me feel good about his future.
His mobility looked very good, just like he showed at Bishop Gorman. He also improvised well and made something out of nothing a couple of times where he continued to keep his eyes down field and get the football out to his receivers.
What really stood out to me though, were the decisions he made. He ran the zone-read consistently well every chance he had. He was making the right decision on the give to the tailback or whether to keep the football every time I saw him run it.
He also had a short memory. He didn't play perfect, but didn't let the bad plays affect his next play. He had bad mechanics on his very first throw to his left which he sailed over the receiver's head. He immediately forgot about it and executed the next play. He missed a wide open easy throw on the run rolling to his right on one play. He said that it was his fault and then kept the offense rolling on the way to a touchdown on the same drive. A short memory is a rare quality for any quarterback to have, let alone a redshirt freshman.
This particular play during the spring game struck me the most though:
As Pac-12 color analyst Yogi Roth mentioned in the clip, it was Solomon's eye discipline that made that play. He looked off the safety and the receiver was running wide open. He didn't need to have a cannon for an arm to make that throw because what he did before he let go of the football made it an easy throw.
I'm sure every one of those quarterbacks that transferred in to Arizona didn't expect to not be starting this first game versus UNLV tomorrow night and I wouldn't be surprised, as Rodriguez mentioned, if a couple of them see the field during this game or during this season.
What I saw from Solomon during his senior season and his performance during the spring game makes me believe that he has a very good chance of holding onto the job and playing very well this season.
He'll make some freshmen mistakes because that's what freshmen do, but if he lives up to his nickname, he should be able to brush those mistakes off and respond in a way that helps Arizona continue to be very good on offense.