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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

What we learned from spring scrimmage

The Arizona football team took the field at Arizona Stadium this weekend for its first open scrimmage of spring practice. Here’s a look at five things that stood out during the brief Saturday-morning session:

1. The defense is way ahead of the offense

Wide receiver Austin Hill blamed the offense’s struggles on a lack of intensity, but that wasn’t the only issue. The defense played sound football, without missing tackles or making mental mistakes. The offense, on the other hand, was missing reads and assignments after what Hill called a dominant practice on Friday.

It’s normal for the defense to be ahead of the offense early on, but Arizona has veterans at every position on offense except for on the line. Because of the inexperience up front, Arizona can’t afford for its veteran skill players to not be on the same page in 2011.

2. Arizona will move the ball, red zone scoring still an issue

Arizona’s lack of a power-run game was evident again on Saturday. The offense racked up nearly 400 yards from scrimmage but managed only one score on 15 drives — thanks in large part to the offense’s inability to run the ball once it got inside the 20. The line was able to open holes for Arizona’s draw sets, but struggled in power run-blocking situations.

Fullback Taimi Tutogi is as physical as any runner in the conference, but he won’t go anywhere unless the line can move the line of scrimmage, or at least hold its ground. If the line can start generating a push, the Arizona offense could be deadly in the red zone with two big-bodied receivers in Dan Buckner and Juron Criner.

3. Trevin Wade won’t have a repeat of 2010

Wade was arguably the best player on the best unit on Saturday, recording two interceptions to go along with a pass broken up. After having an admittedly poor season in 2010, Wade was playing with confidence and again looked like the cornerback that earned second team All Pac-10 honors as a sophomore in 2009.

4. Arizona’s secondary is for real

Even though it will be playing without junior safety Adam Hall for the foreseeable future, the Arizona secondary will be one of the best in the Pac-12. It racked up five interceptions on Saturday, and sophomore corner Jonathan McKnight held his own against Buckner. Shaq Richardson was held out of the scrimmage because of a banged-up shoulder, but he and Wade will form one of the best cornerback duos in recent memory for the Wildcats.

Add in third-year starter Rob Golden making the move back to safety from cornerback, and the defensive backfield has plenty of experience to go along with Marquis Flowers, McKnight and Richardson — who are all expected to contribute as true sophomores.

5. The lines are key in 2011

This is something we knew coming into spring, but it was painfully clear on Saturday. Arizona’s defensive line was putting pressure on quarterback Nick Foles and plugging the run in the red zone against an offensive line with one combined start — which comes from redshirt junior-to-be Kyle Quinn in last year’s Valero Alamo Bowl.

On the defensive side of the ball, the inside should be solid with returning contributors Justin Washington and Sione Tuihalamaka. But after losing Brooks Reed and Ricky Elmore to graduation, generating a pass rush with a four-man line could be an issue. Mohammed Usman and C.J. Parish were manning the ends during Saturday’s scrimmage and played effectively, but it remains to be seen if that was a result of an inexperienced O-line.

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