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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Healthy QB a big difference for ‘Cats

    Healthy QB a big difference for Cats

    Willie Tuitama would be the first person to admit that last season was a nightmare for him.

    Physically, Tuitama was out of commission for a large portion of the year after suffering three concussions. The Arizona football team’s attack was anemic, finishing 115th out of 119 Division I-A teams in total offense and 105th in scoring.

    A big reason was the Wildcats’ inability to keep Tuitama healthy. The quarterback was sacked 31 times and started only nine games.

    Heading into this season’s final game, against No. 13 ASU on Saturday in Tempe, Tuitama has validated the résumé of offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes by not missing a start this season. Tuitama has stayed remarkably healthy despite getting sacked 27 times, meanwhile posting some of the best numbers in school history by a quarterback.

    He’s already broken the UA single-season records for passing yards (3,411), attempts (472), completions (299) and passing touchdowns (26). He’s also fourth in career passing yards, attempts and passing TDs, and second in completions, all records he will likely pass next season as a senior.

    The Wildcats’ spread offense is now 10th nationally in passing, even with an underwhelming running game.

    While it may seem Tuitama’s

    renaissance started with a new offensive system, that’s not the whole story.

    He also got on strength and conditioning coordinator Corey Edmond’s workout plan, losing more than 30 pounds in the offseason.

    “”Coach Ed told me I was going to be his offseason project,”” Tuitama said. “”I had to drop some weight and become a little bit quicker on my feet. Once you put in the effort, things really do pay off.””

    Tuitama has been more apt to scramble in the pocket, tuck the ball away and run for positive yardage this season than previously. With the spread offense, he has more room to run when defenses use deep coverages.

    He’s had his first three career rushing touchdowns and for a while had the team’s longest run of the year, a 22-yard dash against Washington State on Sept. 29.

    Edmond said he has made his players more aware of the simple things about staying healthy – eating and sleeping right and staying mentally tough, all things he claims Tuitama has improved upon.

    Tuitama has improved his diet by drinking less Gatorade and more water and Propel. He eats more salad with dinner and has cut back on junk food, eating Burger King for lunch at the Student Union Memorial Center only “”here and there,”” because Edmond “”was always harping on me.””

    Edmond also worked Tuitama out on a Stairmaster and introduced him to several ladder workouts to keep his

    feet moving.

    “”Coach Edmond has done a great job conditioning,”” said UA head coach Mike Stoops. “”We do as much preventative stuff and that’s a credit to the players and their preparation for the season. All year round we’ve been very fortunate to keep our guys healthy. You’ve got to be lucky and you’ve got to be well conditioned for the most part.””

    The Wildcats have been void of any major injuries on the season, a far cry from most other Pacific 10 Conference teams that have seen losses to key playmakers.

    Among minor ailments, wide receiver Terrell Turner had a mild knee injury at midseason. Receiver Anthony Johnson had strep throat heading into the Washington game on Oct. 27, a sickness he claims to have received from Tuitama, although the quarterback bounced back to have one of the best games of his career.

    On defense, safety Dominic Patrick is the only player to have missed significant time, three weeks for a knee injury.

    The strength and conditioning staff implemented a massage therapy system in spring camp, something Edmond said “”completely wipes out your system.””

    Edmond also established a rule where if any player was hurting, down to minor injuries like hamstring strains, communication must be made with coaches to decrease the chance of it getting aggravated.

    “”What we try to find as strength coaches is how to get a team back up for another big game, and that’s the key to being successful, especially in the Pac-10, where everybody is beating everyone else up,”” he said. “”It’s all about keeping the kids healthy, and who you have standing in the latter part of the game until we start developing some depth.””

    Stoops agreed that the Wildcats aren’t a real deep team, and that the lack of injuries has kept them in position to finish the season strong.

    Tuitama has faced ASU twice, only to get knocked out by injury in both games, both of which Arizona lost.

    “”Keeping our quarterback on his feet is something we weren’t able to do two games in a row all year last year,”” Stoops said. “”Keeping Willie healthy and upright was important.

    “”Guys have taken a lot of snaps. We’ve been really fortunate.””

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