Arizona quarterback Matt Scott passes the ball against Stanford during… (Jason O. Watson / Getty Images )
Matt Scott redshirted last season, confident he could become Arizona's starting quarterback as a fifth-year senior once Nick Foles headed off to the NFL.
Scott's optimism turned to uncertainty after former coach Mike Stoops was fired last October. But the arrival of Rich Rodriguez and his spread-option offense has proved a boon for the former Corona Centennial High standout.
"It's worked out well," said Scott, who ranks fourth nationally in total offense.
Scott has passed for 17 touchdowns with eight interceptions. He has rushed for 265 yards and three touchdowns.
Running back Ka'Deem Carey and receivers Austin Hill and Dan Buckner are other key players for an offense that has averaged 549 yards and 39 points a game.
The 6-foot-3, 196-pound Scott is looking forward to Saturday, when No. 10 USC visits Arizona Stadium in Tucson.
"It's a big opportunity," he said during a telephone interview. "Coming from Southern California, that's always the top team people want to play for. You want to knock them off."
As a sophomore in 2009, Scott started Arizona's first three games. But he was replaced by Foles, a Michigan State transfer, who started most of the next two seasons.
Scott told coaches he wanted to redshirt in 2011 unless he was needed because of an injury suffered by Foles.
"I felt like I had a lot more to prove," Scott said.
Rodriguez's arrival excited Scott, who remembered the coach's high-powered West Virginia teams that featured quarterback Pat White and running back Steve Slaton.
Rodriguez, who worked as a broadcaster last season after a three-year stint at Michigan, said he remembered "a little bit" about Scott from high school recruiting but was eager to evaluate the Wildcats' only returning quarterback during spring practice,
Scott's running, passing, competitiveness and understanding of the offense impressed the new staff.
"I was thinking, 'Well, I think we've got us a pretty good quarterback,'" Rodriguez said.
Scott is happy to finally have a full opportunity after several frustrating seasons.
"It's been a real humbling experience for me," he said. "I grew from it a lot and I never take anything for granted.
"I learned to be more patient."
Josh Shaw, who started for USC at cornerback for the first time against Colorado, said, "You've definitely got to have a short-term memory" to play the position.
Shaw, a converted safety, gave up an apparent touchdown pass that was nullified because of a penalty.
"He's still going through some growing pains of transition over there," Coach Lane Kiffin said Thursday. "But I thought he did well."
Tackle Aundrey Walker, who suffered an undisclosed injury against Colorado, entered practice with trainers about 30 minutes after the Trojans' no-pads, no-helmets session began. Walker did not practice Tuesday or Wednesday. Though Kiffin said no decision had been made, freshman Max Tuerk is expected to start at left tackle for the first time.