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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Matured Dennard opens eyes in camp

    Fall camp is the time to make an impression on coaches. It is the time to earn the right to see the field once the season gets under way.

    This fall, wideout B.J. Dennard has made the most of that time, earning praise from coaches, fellow receivers and – perhaps most importantly – sophomore signal caller Willie Tuitama.

    Dennard, a 5-foot-11, 194-pound junior from Phoenix’s Brophy College Preparatory, enters the season with just eight receptions in his two years as a Wildcat, but he put an exclamation point on his season last year in the season finale at ASU, grabbing a career-high three passes for 35 yards, another career best.

    He then carried that momentum into this fall, where he had what UA head coach Mike Stoops called his “”best camp”” since joining Arizona.

    The multitalented Dennard spent his first two years as a Wildcat playing cornerback in addition to his duties on the offensive side of the ball – he also saw action on kick return units, returning 12 kicks over his career for an average of 21.3 yards – but Dennard has dropped the defense in order to better focus on his offense. And apparently, it’s working.

    “”I think because I’m focusing on offense, it has helped me to stay focused on learning the playbook inside and out,”” he said. “”I want to get that down, and I want to be successful at one thing, and then the defense will come.””

    But there’s a deeper root to his improvement, and it doesn’t even have to do with a football field.

    “”My focus is on another level,”” Dennard said. “”I’ve matured on and off the field. Just maturing as a person has helped me mature as a player as well. I take things serious now.

    “”Football has always been easy to me, it’s always been second nature (because) I could always rely on my athleticism,”” he added. “”But now, with me maturing, I’ve become a student of the game. I’m recognizing defenses, I know my playbook inside out, I know the whole concepts. … Everything is just starting to puzzle together.””

    And with those puzzle pieces falling into place, people began to notice.

    “”B.J., the first day, he had a big day, and yesterday, he was solid, “” Tuitama said at the team’s annual media day, just two days into fall camp.

    The quarterback’s confidence in Dennard was evident in the team’s final scrimmage Saturday, when the wideout hauled in 30 yards on four receptions, one of which was a highlight-reel fingertip grab that forced Dennard to lay out.

    Though the confidence in himself has always been there – Dennard called the camp “”more of a confirmation and an assurance that I am the player that I’ve always been, that I am B.J. Dennard, I am that great athlete that can make … any play on the field”” – but it’s confidence from others that makes him tick.

    “”You always want to have your quarterback’s confidence and trust,”” said Dennard, who caught seven passes last year for 72 yards. “”When he has to throw the ball, I want him to know that I’m always going to come down with it.””

    If things go his way, there’ll be plenty of chances for him to prove just that.

    “”I’m going to start being the player that I know I can be,”” he said. “”Hopefully, you guys ain’t seen nothing yet.

    “”I’m going to keep making those catches.””

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