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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Five storylines for spring ball

Michael Ignatov / Arizona Daily Wildcat

University of Arizona meets Washington State University in an NCAA football game in Arizona Stadium, Tucson, Ariz., Nov. 7, 2009. Arizona went on to win 48-7, getting their 6th win of the season, and becoming ball eligible.
Michael Ignatov
Michael Ignatov / Arizona Daily Wildcat University of Arizona meets Washington State University in an NCAA football game in Arizona Stadium, Tucson, Ariz., Nov. 7, 2009. Arizona went on to win 48-7, getting their 6th win of the season, and becoming ball eligible.

Put away your basketball woes and strap on your shoulder pads — it’s football season.

The Arizona football team hits the field Friday for spring practices. Here’s a look at the top five storylines heading into the spring:

1. New coordinators

Not only has head coach Mike Stoops done a great job developing players over the years, he’s also developed his coordinators. Sonny Dykes and Mark Stoops — former offensive and defensive coordinator, respectively — were two rising football minds in the country and integral pieces to Arizona’s success the last two years.

Now, Mark Stoops is running the defense at Florida State University, and Dykes is the head man at Louisiana Tech, leaving two pretty big holes in Tucson. Mike Stoops has replaced the two with co-coordinators on each side of the ball — Bill Bedenbaugh and Seth Littrell on offense, and Greg Brown and Tim Kish on defense — but how will they do? Will they continue using the same schemes? Will the players buy in? Life after Dykes and Mark Stoops begins this week. We’ll see how it plays out.

2. How will the offense progress?

There isn’t a good time for a coordinator to leave for a new job, but Dykes left Arizona when the offense was in a funk. After exploding for 41 points against Oregon last season, the Wildcats posted just 20, 21 and 0 points in their final three games.

Injuries undoubtedly played a role, with tight end Rob Gronkowski and running back Nic Grigsby out, but, as a whole, the offense seemed to be stuck in neutral. Two players who will be counted on heavily in 2010 who need to have big springs are quarterback Nick Foles and wide receiver Juron Criner. Will Foles be able to take the next stop toward being a premier quarterback? Will Criner build on his impressive sophomore campaign and become Arizona’s top receiving threat?

The defense will be fine under its new coordinators since it will likely stay the same as under Mark Stoops, but the Dykes-less offense has a lot of work to do.

3. Who will play linebacker?

There aren’t many position battles this spring, but one area to keep an eye on is linebacker. The Wildcats lost all three of their starters from 2009 and don’t have anyone with notable playing experience waiting in the wings.

Freshmen RJ Young, Trevor Erno, Jake Fischer and Cordarius Golston are young players who impressed Arizona coaches last season and are all in contention for a starting job this season, but junior college transfers Derek Earls and Paul Vassallo might be the headliners come September.

Both players are big — Earls is 6-foot-4, 225 pounds, and Vassallo is 6-foot-3, 240 pounds — and both are already on campus working out with the team.

Replacing three starters is always difficult, but having the option to choose from at least six players will make it as smooth a transition as possible.

 

4. Adam Hall

We’ve heard the hype, and now it’s time to find out if the kid can play. Stoops intended to redshirt the free safety who played at Palo Verde High School in Tucson, but a roster shakeup and Hall’s solid special teams contributions forced the head coach to let him play.

At 6-foot-4, he’s one of the biggest free safeties in the country, and he’s as athletic as they come, but what type of player will he be? Can he be the playmaking safety Arizona thought they got when they signed him last year?

5. A winning attitude

For the first time in a while, Arizona enters spring ball as a legitimate football school. Finishing second in arguably the nation’s toughest conference last year was a tremendous accomplishment — regardless of what happened in the bowl game. It will be interesting to see if the Wildcats’ recent success translates into a new attitude and approach to practice.

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