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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Football springs back into action

    Arizona sophomore Matt Scott rocks back to throw a pass during the Arizona football teams first spring practice on Wednesday afternoon. Scott will be competing for the Wildcats starting job with fellow sophomores Nick Foles and Bryson Beirne throughout the spring.
    Arizona sophomore Matt Scott rocks back to throw a pass during the Arizona football team’s first spring practice on Wednesday afternoon. Scott will be competing for the Wildcats’ starting job with fellow sophomores Nick Foles and Bryson Beirne throughout the spring.

    It hasn’t yet been three months since the Arizona football team finished 8-5 and won the Las Vegas Bowl over BYU, its best record and first bowl victory since 1998, and the Wildcats are back on the practice field.

    For the Wildcats, it’s football season again – at least for the next month – as the team kicked off its spring football session yesterday that will last until April 4, for a total of 15 practices.

    This time around, Arizona head coach Mike Stoops is more optimistic than ever entering spring drills.

    “”I feel very good about starting this spring, probably in the best position we’ve been in, in a long time,”” Stoops said. “”If we can get a couple of positions to step up I think we have a chance to have another excellent football team.

    “”Obviously there’s some big shoes to fill from last year and that’s what the areas are that we’ll emphasize over the next 15 practices,”” Stoops added, “”obviously starting offensively replacing (former quarterback) Willie (Tuitama).””

    Establishing the No. 1 quarterback going into the fall is Arizona’s top priority, as mentioned not more than a minute into Stoops’ press conference.

    After all, it won’t be easy for the Wildcats to replace Tuitama – the school’s all-time leader in both passing yards and touchdown tosses.

    “”Willie was a great pocket, rhythmic thrower, a great thrower of the football,”” Stoops said.

    While some teams may ease into spring drills, there is already a heated competition going on in terms of finding a successor to Tuitama between three sophomore signal callers in Matt Scott, Nick Foles and Bryson Beirne.

    “”Just like I told those guys (yesterday), we are just going to let it play out,”” said offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes, who will have his hands full finding the first starting quarterback other than Tuitama during his time at Arizona. “”I don’t have any preconceived notions. I think all three do different things and have different strengths and different weaknesses, but we will see which one improves the most and becomes the most consistent.””

    Scott and Foles look to already have a leg up, but Beirne could see his chance during spring drills to steal some attention.

    After averaging more than eight yards per carry his true freshman year last season, Scott seemed to be the natural replacement once Tuitama exhausted his eligibility.

    That was before Foles transferred from Michigan State and impressed the coaching staff last season on the scout team.

    “”It is a really big competition between Matt, Bryson and Me,”” Foles said. “”Every one of us has something different to give and we are all together and all helping each other out. Whichever one of us gets chosen, we are going to be happy for that guy and we are going to try to make each other better every day.””

    With just 15 training sessions to prove themselves during spring practice, each individual drill could mean the world. Because of this, there is already a sense of urgency in spring practice between the competitive signal callers.

    “”All three of us are great quarterbacks and we had a good practice (yesterday),”” Scott said. “”It’s pretty critical (to stay focused on everything), because all of those little things make up the big things. Little drills are always going to affect you, make you stronger, and all that stuff. It is all critical.””

    While it may seem that quarterbacks are quite different, given the fact that Scott seems more like a scrambler and the tall Foles appears to be more of the thrower, Stoops maintained that they are quite similar.

    “”I think as different as they may look physically they’re not drastically different players,”” Stoops said. “”I think Nick’s a lot more elusive than people think (and) I think Matt’s a prototypical thrower more than people think, so there’s a lot more likenesses than there are differences.””

    Golden moved to safety

    Stoops announced Wednesday that former reserve cornerback Robert Golden will be switched to free safety for spring drills.

    Golden, perhaps one of Arizona’s most highly-touted recruits coming in before last season, played sparingly as a freshman for the Wildcats as a special teams player and providing occasional spot duty in the secondary.

    “”At safety, it’s not going to be too much different to me because I love to come up and be physical. I’m just going to get out there and play physical like I always do and bring it every time,”” Golden said. “”I played a little safety in high school, so it’s just adapting to the safety position here in college and see how that goes.””

    Golden said he was up to the move if it gave him more playing time come the fall.

    “”The coaches said they want to get me on the field so if moving me to safety is going to get me on the field then I’m all for it,”” Golden said.

    Getting a kick out of spring

    While replacing the quarterback is atop the Arizona coaching staff’s to-do list, finding the next place-kicker could be just as vital for the Wildcats.

    The departure of kicker Jason Bondzio leaves a void in Arizona’s special teams unit that can only be filled by Alex Zendejas, the only remaining player at that position on the roster.

    Zendejas is no stranger to kicking, given his uncle, Max Zendejas, was an All-American place-kicker for Arizona in 1985, in addition to two other uncles who kicked at both the collegiate and NFL level.

    “”Alex Zendejas will get a lot of work,”” Stoops said. “”I look for him to really start to mature into a big-time kicker.””

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