I began covering University of Arizona athletics in the fall of 2000. I have had the opportunity to cover 12 years worth of preseason practices. In the past 12 years I have missed the first night of practice just one time. In August of 2003 I missed the final first practice of the John Mackovic era because I was on my Honeymoon. That was the lone miss...until this year.
My plan was to be there Thursday night when the Wildcats took the field. My wife had other ideas. You see, August 2nd is my anniversary and this year my wife planned a weekend in Phoenix. She had the place to stay lined up, the babysitter lined up and even a dinner reservation at Don and Charlie's lined up.
She thought fall practice started the next week and I did not dare asking her to change the plans. Forget all of the hardwork in planning things, can you imagine telling your wife "I can't spend a romantic few days in Phoenix with you because I have to watch foot ball practice?" For those of you who are not married, come back and read that question after you have been married and see if you would even consider that line of discourse.
So, I did what any good reporter would do, I called my other staffers.
Unfortunately, one writer had an unavoidable family commitment and the other was out of the state. With that option no longer available, I did the next best thing, I called TucsonCitizen.com's Anthony Gimino and arranged for him to fill me in on what I might have missed.
Rich Rodriguez also bailed me out. He decided to close all but 30 minutes of practice. Instead of missing almost 8 hours of practice, I was really missing 90 minutes and a few interviews. What was originally an obstacle, was suddenly a benefit. Thanks, RichRod.
The fact is, you can't really gleam much about this team, or any team, in 30 minutes. You can see a few drills, warm-ups and some walk throughs in that team. You don't get to see 7-on-7 drills, you don't get to see scrimmages, you don't get to see much of consequence. We won't know how well Matt Scott is playing. We won't get to see if any young linebackers are stepping up. We won't know who is rising or falling on the depth chart.
Here is what we did learn:
*The use of Sancet Stadium was a success. The players liked the backdrop and felt the turf was "soft" and up to par.
*The team's conditioning and ability to handle the fast pace of the practice is improved. All but a few players passed the new fitness test. Those who failed had to join Rodriguez on Friday morning on the treadmills. Rodriguez said on Wednesday that the fitness test would be "fair" and most of the players agreed.
“I thought it looked like some guys really worked hard this summer, and there was a handful who didn’t, so they will work a little extra hard and meet me on the Stairmaster in the early morning," Rodriguez told Gimino and the rest of the assembled media. "So , I’ll have workout partners.”
*Although the team handled the tempo just fine, they were a little rusty. Over all, the staff seemed okay with how the team played, but all agreed they need to be better in all phases.
*The team has been playing loud music during practice for several years, but debuted a new sound system on Wednesday.
“We try to create a little distraction for the players, to create something like it might be like in game day,” Rodriguez said of all the noise.
“I know some of the locals might not like it, but at least we’re doing it at 6 in the evening, not 6 in the morning. I think it adds a little to it," Rodriguez said.
Football staffer Matt Dudek claimed the first song would be "New Noise" buyt the Refused, one of the best tracks off of their seminal album "The Shape of Punk To Come", but I did not get confirmation if that was indeed the song choice.