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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Practice boding well for football

Since first appearing in the rankings three weeks ago, Arizona has done nothing but move up in both the BCS and AP national polls. With a bye week this past weekend, the Wildcats approached the extra week of practice with a new sense of urgency and a new attitude — a winning attitude.

“”I thought we had a really productive week, last week,”” head coach Mike Stoops said on Monday during his weekly press conference. “”Getting some good practice time and working with our younger players and getting healthier was important. I thought it was a productive week all the way around.””

The Wildcats used the time to run their offense with younger players getting more reps, giving them an opportunity to get more familiar with the system for the future and in case injuries continue to pile up for the first-team guys.

When the starters were getting their reps, though, the focus was simple: get better.

“”It’s about us playing well and continually improving as the season goes on,”” Stoops said of his team’s mentality last week. “”I don’t think we’ve played a real complete game (yet this season), so we have to improve on a lot of areas on both sides of the ball. You have to continually work to get yourself in a position to win. We just want to continually try and get to a better place and I think our kids are anxious to do that.””

As anxious to win as the team is, the players and coaches are itching to just get back on the field for a real game.

“”After byes the kids are anxious to get out and play,”” Stoops said. “”It’s almost harder to sit and watch (other teams on TV). I think the anxiety builds as you watch other teams play. I’d rather be playing, and you want to get out and just play.””

Injuries: running backs questionable, Reed back

Getting the younger players some reps might turn out to be more critical than Stoops had hoped. Running backs Nic Grigsby and Greg Nwoko have been hampered by shoulder injuries and Keola Antolin has been fighting an ankle injury.

“”The backs are getting healthier,”” Stoops said after running through an injury report for the umpteenth time this season. “”I don’t know their availability, but (Grigsby and Nwoko) will be very questionable this week. Greg is probably more available than Nic. Keola is healthy and that’s good for us.””

If Grigsby and Nwoko can’t go or are limited, expect Antolin to take the bulk of the carries and senior Nick Booth to spell him in certain situations.

Then you can count on the coaches getting creative.

In terms of running backs, expect freshmen Daniel Jenkins and Taimi Tutogi to make an impact.

“”We will continue to develop Daniel Jenkins and we’ve looked at possibly Taimi at some running back and short yardage goal line situations,”” Stoops said.

Tutogi, an H-back, has been used as an extra blocker in goal line situations already this season but could contribute as a runner since he played running back in high school.

Jenkins, a freshman that is currently redshirting, was a four-star recruit according to rivals.com.

“”We’re trying to alter our running back situation so that if we get into some situations of depth that we have some guys available to us,”” Stoops added.

But while the offense is struggling to stay healthy, the defense is getting healthier.

The unit will receive a huge boost this week thanks to the return of defensive end Brooks Reed from an ankle injury.

“”Getting Brooks back this week will definitely improve our defensive position and our ability to rush off the edge, which is something consistently that he gives you every time he steps on the field,”” Stoops said.

Top 25 fever

Tucson has been abuzz about its football team now that it’s ranked in every major national poll, but Stoops has preached to his players to stay focused and ignore the hoopla.

It’s pretty hard to avoid, though.

“”You get to go across the ESPN ticket and see your name and your scores,”” Stoops joked when asked what being ranked has done for the program. “”I think our kids take pride in it and want to stay there. We don’t want to be a one shot wonder.

“”We’ve played some awfully good football the last two years, and you want to build a consistent top-20 or top-25 program, and that’s something you want to take pride in and something we want to establish here.””

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