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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Captains call players-only meeting

    Sophomore quarterback Willie Tuitama walks off the field with his head down after Arizonas 21-10 loss to Washington Saturday at Arizona Stadium. Though Tuitama threw for 308 yards, the offense sputtered and four team captains called a players-only team meeting to air out concerns.
    Sophomore quarterback Willie Tuitama walks off the field with his head down after Arizona’s 21-10 loss to Washington Saturday at Arizona Stadium. Though Tuitama threw for 308 yards, the offense sputtered and four team captains called a players-only team meeting to air out concerns.

    Four captains looked around the Arizona locker room following Arizona’s 21-10 loss to Washington Saturday night and knew something had to be done.

    So upperclassmen Syndric Steptoe, Antoine Cason, Spencer Larsen and Michael Johnson called a players-only meeting for about a half-hour Sunday afternoon in the team’s meeting room in McKale Center “”to get everything out in the open,”” according to safety Dominic Patrick.

    “”There was a lot of tension that needed to be out by certain people at certain positions, whatever you want to call it,”” Patrick said. “”Maybe not tension, but certain things that need to be said to motivate some people.””

    Said Steptoe: “”It needed to be done.””

    The meeting, which centered on how the team could “”turn this thing around,”” according to tackle Eben Britton, wasn’t led by one specific person, but was instead more of an open forum for everyone on the team to discuss the season up to this point.

    “”Everybody (talked) at one point,”” said running back Chris Jennings, “”because everybody’s tired of losing.””

    And even though most of what was said rehashed what coaches have been saying all year, the players said it was important to hear it from another perspective.

    “”Coaches can talk your ear out,”” Jennings said, “”but it’s the teammates that get each other’s ear that count and matter and mean something.””

    Added quarterback Willie Tuitama: “”The coaches say it over and over, but the thing is that the coaches aren’t the ones out there playing. We’re the ones out there that have to make it happen. To hear it from your own teammates is a whole lot different.””

    UA head coach Mike Stoops said he hadn’t “”talked to anybody”” about the meeting as of yesterday morning during his weekly press conference.

    “”Meetings – I don’t know what they say that I don’t say,”” Stoops said. “”They’ve gone through some hard times, but (the players) are the only ones that can change it. There aren’t coaches that can go out there and make plays. …What do we got to go through? I mean how many coaches, how many systems?””

    But the third-year coach did acknowledge that with a team as young as Arizona – the team starts just four seniors; one on offense, three on defense – the need for leadership becomes that much greater.

    “”I hope they find themselves and understand we need strong leadership, obviously, on the field. And that comes from them,”” Stoops said. “”It can’t all come from the coaches.””

    Still, Stoops said there’s one glaring thing that’s missing from the team’s performance on the field: “”We just need to make plays “”

    “”We’ve got to run, we’ve got to block, we’ve got to tackle, we’ve got to catch,”” Stoops said. “”I mean, we’ve got to do things fundamentally better.

    “”We’ve got to put ourselves in position to make plays,”” he added. “”We overthrow a guy by a yard or two – that’s a 99-yard play (in the first quarter when Tuitama missed wideout Mike Thomas).

    “”Why we can’t execute it and get it done, I don’t know. Why we drop three interceptions (against Washington), I don’t know. We’re just not quite getting it done in some areas.””

    Barnett healed

    Expect defensive tackle Yaniv Barnett to be back in the fold Saturday against UCLA.

    Stoops said yesterday that the junior has fully recovered from a hyper-extended elbow and an irregular heartbeat that has kept him on the sidelines since the Sept. 9 game against then-No. 8 Louisiana State.

    “”Yaniv was playing extremely well before he got hurt,”” Stoops said of Barnett, who had five tackles in two games. “”We missed him.””

    Senior Marcus Smith, who moved from the end spot to replace Barnett on the interior, and linebacker Ronnie Palmer were “”banged up”” against Washington, Stoops said, but he added that he expects both to be available Saturday.

    ‘Playing close isn’t good enough’

    Over the course of Stoops’ first two seasons and into 2006, his teams have played tough teams close – Wisconsin in 2004, Southern California each of the past two years – but the coach said yesterday that he’s had it with moral victories.

    “”Playing close isn’t good enough,”” he said. “”Playing USC like that defensively, that’s not good enough.””

    In order to even play those teams close, the Wildcats have had to play mistake-free football.

    “”Our margin for error is very, very limited as a program, whether it be offense, defense, special teams,”” Stoops said.

    It’s something that has begun to wear on the team.

    “”It’s hard,”” Stoops said. “”You have to understand, for us to compete week in and week out, it takes a lot out of us. The USC game (Sept. 23) took a lot out of us.

    “”We’re not an extremely deep team,”” he added. “”We lack depth. (Games like the USC game) are where depth and youth comes in to help you, and that’s something we haven’t developed in this program yet.””

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