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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Football looks for consistency

    Arizona quarterback Willie Tuitama rocks back to pass in a March 24 practice at Jimenez Field. Tuitama and the Wildcats look to improve on their offense in tomorrows Spring Game.
    Arizona quarterback Willie Tuitama rocks back to pass in a March 24 practice at Jimenez Field. Tuitama and the Wildcats look to improve on their offense in tomorrow’s Spring Game.

    Last year Wildcat fans wondered what the new spread offense would look like. This year the mystery is how Arizona’s young talent will perform on both sides of the ball.

    The Arizona football team will play its annual Spring Game tomorrow afternoon at Arizona Stadium at 1:30 – admission is free – in the squad’s final practice session of the spring to try and address that question.

    The offense now has a full year of offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes’ system under its belt, but there are still plenty of adjustments to be made. Last year the wide receivers, outside of junior Mike Thomas’ 1,038 yards and 11 TDs, couldn’t consistently make big plays, but Dykes thinks that should change this year.

    Receivers Terrell Turner, Terrell Reese, Derek Barkum and Delashaun Dean are expected to step up and make more big plays as the quartet combined for only 5 TDs and 1,202 yards last season.

    “”Everybody is picking things up, making better decisions and as a result, they’re being more comfortable and we’re just playing at a higher speed,”” Dykes said. “”The ball is getting thrown faster, the offensive line is picking up the blitz faster, the receivers are running faster routes. Everything is just happening faster and when that happens that’s when you have a chance to start making some big plays.””

    The most critical part of the scrimmage from a coaching standpoint – aside from keeping players healthy – will be getting younger players experience in game situations. Arizona’s defense is very young with the current 27-man depth chart having only 81 combined starts, an average of just three starts per man.

    “”We have a couple of new junior college players in Sterling Lewis and Vuna Tuihalamaka, so just getting those guys playing into our defense is part of it,”” said head coach Mike Stoops. “”Then the secondary, we’re rotating those guys around so we have a ways to go to solidify our starting 11 but I like the direction we’re headed.””

    Defensive coordinator Mark Stoops was slightly less enthusiastic about his unit’s overall performance, though he echoed some of his brother’s thoughts.

    “”I feel good with our first group (of linebackers),”” Mark Stoops said. “”We’re moving around some guys and trying different options and that kind of looks like a Chinese fire drill at times, but we’ll get that ironed out before we get it all going in the fall.

    “”I was feeling really good through the first three quarters of spring (about the secondary) but towards the end here we’re not finishing,”” he added. “”These guys need to learn how to compete and how to finish, so I’m not really happy with the way we’ve been finishing spring.””

    Another big concern lies on the offensive side of the ball. Out of the six current players on the depth chart at the left guard or left tackle position, only one has any starting experience (sophomore guard Colin Baxter, 11). Dykes’ offense employs wider splits between linemen than traditional style offenses and was difficult for players to grasp last year, but everything seems to be clicking this spring.

    “”I feel great right now, all our linemen made tremendous strides,”” said UA quarterback Willie Tuitama. “”From two years ago to last year they picked it up big time and from last year to now they’re really on top of their game and that makes me feel a lot better and gives me more time to get the ball down the field to our receivers.””

    If players continue to give their best efforts and nail down the complexities of their respective units’ schemes, then Wildcat fans could see a different outcome than previous seasons under coach Stoops.

    “”We’ve kind of been a team that hasn’t been real consistent in the past and we just need to see if we can go out and have a good consistent day (tomorrow) and execute and play fast,”” Dykes said. “”The guys have practiced hard and we’ve just got to continue to keep doing that. We wrap it up (tomorrow) and we need to have a great offseason and really work hard over the summer because I think we’re close to having a pretty good team.””

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