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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Spring Football: Scrimmage season opens

    Jake Lacey / Arizona Daily Wildcat
    Jake Lacey
    Jake Lacey / Arizona Daily Wildcat

    Heading into the Arizona football team’s first scrimmage of the spring, Wildcat head coach Mike Stoops said he’s already found plenty to be excited about, from the team’s depth at wide receiver to the early play of the backup offensive linemen.

    “”Just looking at the first day (of practice), our abilities are night and day to a year ago,”” he said.

    Nevertheless, Stoops said Wednesday the team will only hold a 45-minute, open-public session tomorrow at 11 a.m. at Arizona Stadium, as Stoops said he doesn’t want to push players too hard a day after they donned their pads for the first time this year.

    “”Right now, the focus is developing the whole team,”” he said. “”We’re just trying to work hard with our young guys and get them a lot of reps.””

    Of particular importance in that respect should be freshman quarterback Willie Tuitama, who is Arizona’s unquestioned No. 1 signal caller.

    Stoops said the Wildcats will run about 40 plays, and that Tuitama and senior quarterback Adam Austin, the team’s only healthy quarterback last spring, would split time about evenly.

    Junior quarterback Kris Heavner, who rejoined the team after briefly transferring to Baylor last year, will get a few snaps too, Stoops said.

    Whoever lines up behind center will have a bounty of targets. Coaches have raved about the early spring performances of the receivers, including freshman Mike Thomas, junior Syndric Steptoe, redshirt freshman Bobby McCoy, redshirt sophomore Anthony Johnson and sophomore B.J. Dennard.

    If you go

    Arizona football intrasquad scrimmage
    Tomorrow ? 11 a.m.
    Arizona Stadium

    Arizona offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Mike Canales said McCoy has been particularly impressive.

    Also a member of last year’s men’s track and field team, McCoy, who had one reception for five yards in 2005, was listed as the No. 3 receiver entering the spring.

    “”He’s about 10 pounds heavier, he’s stronger,”” Canales said. “”He’s not doing track, so he’s concentrating on football, and he understands that this is where his bread is buttered at.””

    Stoops said a priority on offense until the season begins will establish better downfield passing, a trait generally missing in his first two seasons.

    “”People are going to be crowding the line of scrimmage, and that’s something that we have to be ready for,”” he said.

    Stoops lauded Tuitama for his excellent arm strength and an ability to make any throw necessary on the field.

    “”I think this is the most important scrimmage he’ll have in his time here,”” Stoops said.

    Tuitama has said he’s ready to accept whatever expectations are heaped on him leading up to his first full year as a starter this fall.

    His success, tomorrow and in the future, will depend on his ever-growing stock of quality pass-catchers, however.

    “”We have our mighty-mites in Mike T. and Step, but B.J., Anthony Johnson, Bobby McCoy – they can get it done on the outside,”” Tuitama said. “”We’re also bringing in some guys next year that may have an impact. I’m real excited because we have speed, we have height and we have chemistry right now, and that’s real good.””

    Stoops said the position battles he’ll keep an eye on tomorrow include running back, tight end and safety, where redshirt freshman Brandon Tatum and sophomore Dominic Patrick will vie to replace the graduated Darrell Brooks, the team’s leading tackler last season.

    Another position of note will be offensive line, where Stoops has so far been impressed by redshirt freshmen Eben Britton, Daniel Borg, Adam Grant and Blake Kerley as well as junior college transfer James Tretheway.

    “”Our offensive lines now have great depth and great young personnel,”” Stoops said.

    While the team’s future holds promise, some players, like redshirt sophomore running back Chris Henry, said they are more concerned about tomorrow’s relevance to preparing for the season.

    “”The first scrimmage is basically getting all the fundamentals down … everybody getting on the same page,”” he said. “”At practice, once we put on the pads and everything, all the holes get a little smaller, everybody gets a little bit tired faster, the blocks get more solid, some people get more physical, some people get more timid – so we just all got to work together.””

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