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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Trio of ‘big’ freshmen joins trio of wideout veterans

    Freshman wide receiver Mike Thomas dodges a Stanford defender in Arizonas loss to Stanford in October at Arizona Stadium. Thomas led all UA receivers last season with 771 yards on 52 catches, including five touchdowns.
    Freshman wide receiver Mike Thomas dodges a Stanford defender in Arizona’s loss to Stanford in October at Arizona Stadium. Thomas led all UA receivers last season with 771 yards on 52 catches, including five touchdowns.

    A year after sharing the title of Pacific 10 Conference Freshman of the Year, Mike Thomas returned to fall camp, only to find a major difference: This year, there was competition.

    It’s something unseen at the wideout position during head coach Mike Stoops’ tenure, something that’s thanks in large part to an incoming trio of freshmen.

    And that competition has driven the mainstays – Thomas, Syndric Steptoe and Anthony Johnson – the emerging – B.J. Dennard and Bobby McCoy – and those waiting to burst onto the scene – the freshmen: Delashaun Dean and the Terrells, Turner and Reese – into a battle to see the field in 2006.

    “”I mean just overall as a unit, as a wide receivers unit, our level of play has picked up,”” said the sophomore Thomas, who led all Wildcats receivers last season with 771 yards on 52 catches, five of which went for scores.

    “”There are no excuses, no explanations,”” he added. “”We’re trying to do some things in the future, so we’re going hard – just the whole intensity of the whole thing has picked up.””

    Even Steptoe, a senior, welcomed the challenge of having to earn his playing time.

    “”It’s always fun to have competition,”” said Steptoe, who hauled in 37 passes for 493 yards in 2005. “”It makes you raise your game that much higher. Competition is never bad.””

    ‘I can’t pick just one’

    Apparently, Mike Stoops has heard that good things come in threes. And this year, the third-year head coach has made good use of that fact, with a trio of freshmen who stand to make a big impact right away.

    “”Oh, shoot, those guys are unbelievable,”” wideouts coach Charlie Williams said of his newest students. “”I’m talking about Terrell Reese can jump out of the sky, Delashaun Dean has big mitts and catches just about everything and Terrell Turner just runs good routes, gets open and makes the plays.””

    Added quarterback Willie Tuitama: “”If you look at them, Terrell Reese and ‘Dela’ are just freaks, and Terrell Turner, he’s a real good possession receiver, runs great routes.””

    But the best response belongs to the man entrusted to best using their talents, offensive coordinator Mike Canales.

    “”Oh gosh,”” he said with a wide smile at their mention. “”It’s nice.””

    Which leads to seemingly the only problem with Willie’s newest weapons: Is it possible to pick a standout of the three?

    “”All of them have been stepping up,”” Steptoe said. “”I mean, all of them do different things. You can’t just think about one right now.””

    Added junior B.J. Dennard: “”Actually, man, all three of those guys are good guys. I can’t pick just one of them.””

    The three spend nearly all their time off the field together, with Reese and Dean rooming together during fall camp and Turner just a few doors down.

    “”Sometimes,”” Turner said, “”we get in after practice and have a little study-hall session for the next practice.””

    “”We’re real tight,”” added the 6-foot-4 Dean, formerly of Fairfield (Calif.) High School. “”It’s competitive, but at the same time, we’re still close friends and we push each other.””

    And though that friendship has helped to ease the transition from the high school game to its collegiate counterpart – “”Just the attitude, the whole attitude. You have to be focused 100 percent of the time,”” said Reese, less than a year removed from Pflugerville, Texas’ Reese Hendrickson High School – it’s also been aided by the so-called “”older guys”” in Steptoe, Johnson and Thomas.

    “”Every time we have a question for any one of them, they always have an answer for us,”” said Turner, a 6-foot-2 graduate of Lakeview Centennial High School in Garland, Texas.

    “”Everyone’s been like a big brother to me,”” Dean said. “”Every question I have, it gets answered.””

    Said Steptoe of his role this fall camp: “”It’s just showing the young guys how to do things right.

    “”When I came in as a freshman, I didn’t really have anyone that was over me to help me out, I was mostly just flying by myself. So I’m just here to make sure that that they got somebody to look up to, so they know what to do and what not to do.””

    One thing each of the three knows how to do well is use height to his advantage.

    Whereas the “”big three”” last year (Thomas, Steptoe and Johnson) average out to 5-foot-10, none of the “”bigger three”” stand below 6-foot-2, which, according to Canales, is “”what you want to have.””

    “”When you have big targets to throw the ball to,”” he said, “”it makes it a lot easier.””

    (Not taking anything away from Steptoe and Thomas, Canales called them “”as good as anyone I’ve ever coached.””)

    But it’s safe to say that it’s the competition – and not their height advantage – that drives the freshmen.

    “”That was one of the main things, was the fact that I could actually come in and earn my spot,”” Reese said of his decision to become a Wildcat.

    Though in the end it will appear the two Terrells came out on top with Dean likely redshirting this fall, it’s that competition that has allowed Stoops to give Dean extra time to make sure he’s completely recovered from a knee injury he suffered during his final high school season last year.

    Even considering Dean’s likely redshirt, this year’s corps of wideouts remain different than any other seen in Tucson in recent memory. Talent-wise, they’re deep.

    “”That’s what I came here for, the competition,”” Turner said. “”If I didn’t have a way to see the field, I don’t know what I would do.””

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