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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Smith returns to lead small group of ends

    Spring Football

    Even as figures from the Arizona football team’s past and potential future floated about its closed practice at Jimenez practice facility last night, the Wildcats’ defensive end situation is fixed in the present.

    “”We got four defensive ends in the spring, talking specifically about them, so we don’t have great depth right now,”” said Arizona defensive ends coach Joe Robinson. “”We’re only two-deep (at each position), just with bodies.””

    Robinson said he wished Copeland Bryan, the team’s leader in sacks last season and a possible NFL draft pick later this month, could suit up for another year.

    But with Bryan and top-rated junior-college prospect Louis Holmes barred from entering the Jimenez gates, the Wildcats have no choice but to focus on one player who will be around in the fall: redshirt senior Marcus Smith.

    Smith sat out almost all of last season with a broken ankle and has returned to spring workouts at a muscular 265 pounds, 30 more than his freshman playing weight, thanks to months spent working with Arizona strength and conditioning coach Corey Edmond.

    “”A lot of (the added weight) is upper body,”” Smith said. “”Since I was on crutches, that was all I could do. I guess being hurt helped out a little bit.””

    Smith will carry the primary burden of replacing Bryan, a former walk-on who registered 7.5 sacks in 2005 after making only 6.5 in the three years prior.

    “”It’s a huge impact to lose a guy like Copeland Bryan, who in my opinion was one of the finest defensive ends in the nation,”” Robinson said. “”I think he’ll be proving that on draft day.””

    In the meantime, as the team waits for Holmes to choose a team and three signed recruits to enter fall camp in August, Robinson and the coaching staff will shape a foursome with a mix of youth, experience and explosiveness.

    Redshirt freshman Johnathan Turner will start opposite Smith after earning freshman All-America honors from The Sporting News. He is the defensive line’s leading returning tackler, notching 27 in 11 games.

    Lurking as backups are freshman Michael Shelton and redshirt sophomore Jason Parker, who had three sacks with the second-string defense in Arizona’s first spring scrimmage Saturday.

    “”I just wanted to make plays, that was about it,”” said Parker, who had 14 tackles and a sack as the team’s top backup at end last season. “”I didn’t really do anything differently. I was just ready to go.””

    Robinson said Parker has exemplified the position’s new policy of executing better against the run and the pass.

    In 2005, Arizona allowed 4.6 yards per carry and had only 24 sacks, good for ninth and eighth, respectively, in the Pacific 10 Conference.

    “”We can’t get stalemated at the line of scrimmage,”” Robinson said. “”We got to put consistent heat on the passer, and we gave up too much in terms of average yards per carry in the rushing game.

    “”There are little technical things we have to do against the run, but I think kids are improving on them in the spring.””

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