Arizona Athletics

Arizona’s potential is there, now we’ll see how it all works out in the fall

It’s very apparent Jedd Fisch & Co., have lots of potential moving forward. But you know what they say about potential? It’s all unrealized talent.

So, here we are, just finished with Fisch’s third Spring game – and practices – with the thought that UA football has come a long way since the duldroms of the Kevin Sumlin era (error?)

Come the fall it’s all about realizing the potential – seeing how all the pieces fit. Seeing where the talent rises and where it doesn’t. As Justin Flowe called it: the New Zona.

It all starts with Jayden de Laura, UA’s QB1, who has bulked up and, well, maybe has grown up.

When I asked about what impressed him the most this spring, Fisch was quick to answer: de Laura.

“Jayden de Laura’s maturity, probably,” Fisch said. “It’s probably the most impressive part of the whole thing, and then I would say the second thing would probably be I feel the offense picked up where they left off. And I feel like the defense made one of the bigger jumps that I’ve ever seen, that I’ve sat through. But overall, probably Jayden.”

So, he – Fisch – has given hope to a strong summer and optimistic fall. If the Arizona offense stays healthy and strong led by its quarterback and if the defense gets better – if has to, right? – then Arizona has a chance to win more than six games. It’s a meager improvement, but improvement nonetheless.

That success may all ride on the defense. Arizona had to score just to keep up last year. Maybe with a better defense it won’t have as much pressure next season. Maybe.

“One big thing I’ve seen is all 11 on the defense is (have) bought into the scheme,” said de Laura. “Everybody worries about doing their job. They’re focused on their one of 11 jobs. So, if someone takes care of their job, they should be able to trust the other person that they’ll get their job done. That’s just really helped them out just from being here last spring and just seeing the growth everybody has taken.”

It’s a growth that – again – Fisch has never seen in his years as a coach. Hyperbole? Maybe, but you can see it. Arizona has better talent now. How it translates will be determined.

Fisch said he loves the defense’s effort. How it runs to the ball. How aggressive it is.

“I’ve never seen a defense go out there and make such a jump in terms of 11 guys chasing after the ball on every play,” Fisch said. “That’s a huge, huge difference. I think we got after the passer. Justin Flowe and company brought a ton of passion and energy to the practice field that is contagious and that will help us get to where we want to go.”

An announced crowd of 23,000 fans at Saturday’s Red-Blue Scrimmage saw some of it. Of course, it was just spring and 15 practices, but Arizona looked improved.

And while Saturday’s scrimmage game was important – kind of – it was more about engaging with the fans, former players and the future.

“Games are hard, practices are really hard; the spring game doesn’t need to be really hard,” Fisch said. “The spring game needs to be good football, clean football, good plays. We’re not looking to trick anybody; we’re not looking to win the spring game. Last time I checked we do not play Arizona.”

Team Blue beat Red 23-19.

Now, they will return later into the summer and get in player-run practices, something Fisch called “critical” to the team’s progress.

As for the team itself, it’s improving … with everything. Including, if not most importantly, chemistry.

“For me, I just feel like everybody … loves each other,” de Laura said. “Like especially me, we just kind of embrace all the new guys coming in. It wasn’t really something that was really felt when me and Jacob (Cowing) first came in. So, we had to make it known that we’re gonna have this locker room, we are all we got in this locker room and we push each other to our max and expect everybody to be the best player that they can be and that’s how we’re going to be successful.”

Count down starts now to what potentially could be a good season.

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