RichRod names QB for UA football’s opener…Anu Solomon

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                </div>  “Anu Solomon will be the starter Friday night.” With that one simple sentence, Rich Rodriguez on Monday unveiled his quarterback pick to start for the Arizona Wildcats in Friday’s season […]<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons below -->
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Anu Solomon will be the starter Friday night.”

With that one simple sentence, Rich Rodriguez on Monday unveiled his quarterback pick to start for the Arizona Wildcats in Friday’s season opener against UNLV, thus providing an answer to the biggest question going into the 2014 campaign.

And with five days to spare, no less.

The third-year Arizona head coach has refused to elevate any of his handful of QB hopefuls to the role of starter, insisting there just wasn’t enough separation among them as they wrapped up spring practice and then moved into pre-season work this month.

But the announcement that came Monday during the weekly press conference came with plenty of qualifiers.

“That doesn’t mean that he plays the whole game and that he will be the starter the rest of the season,” Rodriguez was quick to add.  “But I also don’t want any quarterback to ever go in thinking ‘as soon as I make a mistake I’m coming out.’  That’s not going to be the case either.  But I thought he deserved the right to start the first game.”

And Solomon did earn that right.  He was one of four players battling for the job throughout the off-season – and the other three were legitimate contenders.  Solomon is a redshirt freshman who just snatched the job from a couple of upper-classmen and a transfer from the Texas Longhorn program that was a local all-star while playing at Chaparral High School in Scottsdale.

Connor Brewer, who was ranked by ESPN as the No. 7 quarterback in the class of 2012, lost just two games while guiding Chaparral to three consecutive state titles, threw for 7,574 career yards, and set a state record with 100 touchdowns.

But the youngster who spent a redshirt year with the Texas program returned to play for the Wildcats and has spent most of his time this off-season working with the third- and fourth-team units – as has Jerrard Randall, the strong-armed junior transfer from LSU.

Jesse Scroggins, the final contestant, is a redshirt senior who should have been the most likely to start this season after serving as a back-up last year to B.J. Denker and then showing well during spring practice.  He arrived in Tucson after spending two years on the sidelines at USC and another season playing at a California junior college, where he played in eight games. But a concussion from a car accident during the summer, his second concussion in less than a year, slowed his progress

But at last we know the starting job belongs to Solomon – for now, at least.

“I’m confident Anu will play well and he will be the starter as long as he plays well and we win,” says Rodriguez.  However, the third-year head coach has also said there’s a good chance he will play more than one quarterback, at least early in the season.

Solomon, while just a second-year freshman, had an impressive prep career at Bishop Gorman High School in Nevada, the program currently ranked by USA Today as No. 1 in the nation.  He started all four years for the Gaels, led the team to a 57-3 record during those years, and won four state titles.  His final numbers included 10.112 yards passing, 138 touchdowns, and just 17 interceptions.

Now we’ll see if that success will translate to the college game.

He’s been set up for early success with UNLV coming to Tucson for the season opener.  The Cats have won 12 of their last 14 openers and have beaten the Rebels both times they played in the past, most recently last year when they traveled to Las Vegas to spoil the Rebels’ 2013 opener with a 58-13 drubbing.

UNLV did go on to win seven of their final regular-season games, but Arizona is likely to be an even better team than the one that finished 8-5 last year and clobbered Boston College in the Advocare V100 Bowl.

Solomon will have one of the most experienced offensive lines in the country to work behind, and a deep and talented receiving corps to use as targets.  Austin Hill, a senior who missed all of last season with a torn ACL, returns at the wide receiver position where he racked up 1,364 receiving yards in 2012.

The O line returns 104 careers starts, including 38 by left tackle Mickey Baucus and 37 by right tackle Fabbians Ebbele, and the key components return from a defense that intercepted 18 passes last year, the most of any UA team in the last 24 years.

But, in the end, it all starts and ends under center.  And Arizona is one of just two teams in the Pac-12 that do not have a returning starting quarterback.

“You have no chance to win unless you get good quarterback play,” Rodriguez likes to remind the media.  “You can’t win a championship and I don’t think you can have a winning season unless your quarterback play is pretty good.”

Perhaps just as important, he won’t be able to beat Arizona State when the Territorial Cup rivalry game arrives at the end of the season.

And that’s one he really needs to win.  He’s 0-2 in the rivalry.

(Photo: Arizona Athletics)