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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Frosh Grigsby could see more time at RB

    Arizona running back Nick Grigsby avoids the tackle during the Wildcats 45-24 victory over NAU last year.
    Arizona running back Nick Grigsby avoids the tackle during the Wildcats’ 45-24 victory over NAU last year.

    Chris Jennings seemingly had a grip on the starting running back role prior to the season, but UA head coach Mike Stoops said the Wildcats will continue to evaluate all the backs.

    The bulk of carries in Saturday’s 45-24 victory over NAU went not to Jennings, but rather to sophomore Xavier Smith and freshman Nick Grigsby, who rushed 17 and nine times, respectively.

    After carrying the ball 14 times in Arizona’s opening 20-7 loss to Brigham Young Sept. 1, Jennings only had one carry Saturday.

    “”I think the running backs both did a nice job throughout the course of the game,”” Stoops said. “”I think (Grigsby) played well for his first game of significant playing time.””

    Grigsby turned some heads in his debut, as the freshman ran for 58 yards while displaying an element of speed and explosiveness the Wildcat running back corps may have previously lacked.

    Though it was just one game, offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes described the position battle as a “” ‘What have you done for me lately?’ business.””

    “”His role is going to depend on how he practices during the week, just like every other

    player on this team,”” Dykes said of Grigsby. “”If he practices well and does a nice job picking up the blitz and playing consistent and making plays, his role will be big, and if he doesn’t, it will be small.””

    Through it all, the freshman remains confident.

    “”We are going (to score our first rushing touchdown) this week,”” Grigsby said. “”We are going to get it this week, that’s all I’m going to say.””

    Baxter to start at left guard, Borg still in mix

    The Arizona coaching staff changed around their starting offensive line unit, placing redshirt freshman Colin Baxter into the starting left guard role.

    Baxter moved ahead of previous starter Daniel Borg last week against NAU, after Borg struggled in week one at BYU.

    “”(Baxter) had practiced well, and we just wanted to give him the opportunity and see what he could do,”” Stoops said. “”He’s a really tough, competitive kid that prepares very well and has gotten better. He is an excellent football player.””

    Borg is still expected to play a significant part on Arizona’s line.

    “”Borg has played both guard and tackle for us, and he will continue to be our sixth guy at a variety of different places,”” Stoops said. “”It gives us a little comfort zone knowing that we have a player of that magnitude that started for us before continually pushing for playing time.””

    Baxter said he knew the new role was coming, as he was getting more and more reps with the first-team offense.

    “”I had been working in at practice all week but I found I was going to start Friday,”” he said. “”It feels good. It was kind of hard sitting out a whole year redshirting, but it feels good to be back playing football.””

    CB Ross making mark on D, return game

    After giving linebacker Dane Krogstad the main responsibilities of the nickel role earlier this season, the Arizona coaching staff decided to add a little more speed.

    Cornerback Devin Ross will now assume the duties in Arizona’s nickel package, boosting the speed and coverage on the field during the set and giving the Wildcats more leverage on man-to-man calls.

    “”I am next on the depth chart at corner, so it just helps me with my coverage,”” Ross said. “”I am more experienced for next year. I know I have two seniors in front of me. Just waiting for my time to come.””

    Nickel backs are typically used in passing situations and on third downs. With Ross entering the game for Krogstad, the coverage will gain a significant amount of speed in addition to a tighter coverage package, said defensive coordinator Mark Stoops.

    “”He brings some more versatility to our defense because he is very athletic,”” he added. “”He is really impressing us at corner, and we feel like he is the type of athlete we have to get on the field to help us improve our athleticism.””

    Cornerback isn’t the only place where Ross wants to make a difference. He also wants to have a large impact in the return game.

    Ross returned a kickoff 52 yards Saturday, which eventually led to an Arizona scoring drive.

    The Wildcats haven’t taken a kickoff back for a touchdown since Chris McAlister did it 1998 on the opening kickoff in the season-opener against Hawaii.

    “”I read that on the Internet, so I want to be the first one to take one back (since),”” Ross said. “”Sooner or later I’m trying my best to get past the last set of guys and break one and score a touchdown.””

    ,b>Tuitama getting settled into new offense

    Arizona quarterback Willie Tuitama called Saturday’s performance against NAU the best in his Wildcat career – even better than his first-career start against then – No. 7 UCLA.

    In that game in 2005, he led Arizona to a 52-14 victory on Homecoming, invigorating a student section that rushed the field after the win.

    “”I’m a whole lot better,”” he said. “”Getting some game experience is definitely a plus for me.””

    Tuitama said he is more comfortable in the pocket, attributing the success to the offensive line, and has put last year’s lack of protection behind him.

    “”I feel great,”” he said. “”It’s kind of nice for me that I can get away a little bit.””

    – Mike Ritter contributed to this report

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