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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Arizona striving for change in fall

    Arizona striving for change in fall

    Albert Einstein once said that doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results is the definition of insanity.

    While the Arizona football team has tried just about everything during head coach Mike Stoops’ tenure in Tucson to produce a winning season and a bowl berth, nothing has worked for the team that currently finds itself in the midst of a nine-year postseason drought.

    So during fall camp, the Arizona coaching staff’s mantra was one of change and relaxation while preparing the team to the fullest for the upcoming season, which varied from sending the team to work out at an army base at Fort Huachuca to playing music through the speakers during practices.

    Any change is welcome, especially if it helps the team’s chances of finding more success this season. Trying the same thing again and failing, however, would reach that mark of insanity.

    “”I think what you want to do – especially this year because (camp) was a week longer because (students) start school a week laterÿ- is change things up again because camp is a grind,”” said offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes. “”It is the same thing, especially offensively, over and over and over again, so I think anything you can do to give them a change of scenery is good.

    “”I thought Fort Huachuca was good because of that and then also the team building aspect, too,”” Dykes added. “”It has been a good camp and to me we are certainly a lot further along than we were.””

    Entering his fifth year as head coach, Stoops has yet to get a taste of the postseason. Having experimented with everything from play calling on both sides of the ball to how practice is conducted in camps, including the implementation of the new spread offense before last year, Stoops is certainly as eager as anyone to get the season underway.

    Aside from the inevitable questions and calls for doubt, Stoops and the rest of his staff feel Arizona is as strong as it has been since he took the reins of the team.

    As for camp?

    “”I think it went very well and I think our kids worked extremely hard in being a more selfless team and working for each other,”” Stoops said. “”And that has been a big goal of ours and I think we are much stronger because of it.””

    Perhaps the biggest uncertainty entering the season is a defense that lacks star power, stemming from the departures of cornerback Antoine Cason and linebacker Spencer Larsen from last season.

    The no-name defense, which returns with only three starters, will be led by two-year starting linebacker Ronnie Palmer and will be boosted by defensive backs Cam Nelson and Nate Ness, both of whom started for the majority of last season.

    Other than that, the defense will rely on a lot of substitutions in an effort to keep everyone as fresh as possible, given that this year’s defensive squad is expected to be the fastest unit under Stoops thus far in his career in Arizona.

    While there is cause for concern, Stoops said he won’t be worried about his defense’s inexperience come this Saturday, when the Wildcats open up at Arizona Stadium against Idaho.

    “”I like our defense,”” Stoops said. “”Hopefully next week when the lights come on they will come out and play. Their inexperience is obviously a little bit of a concern, but I think they have prepared well and I think they are very competent. These kids have been in our system a long time, so they are just waiting for their opportunity.

    “”We will go through some learning experiences because they do lack some game experience,”” Stoops added, “”but hopefully we will get that in the first couple of games and get rid of some of the jitters.””

    Arizona’s spread offense, on the other hand, is sitting in a completely different situation. While Arizona lost some games it probably shouldn’t have en route to a 5-7 record last season, the offense, under first-year coordinator Dykes, was quite the success.

    This year the Wildcats are hoping it will be even better.

    Much of the success will lie on the shoulders of senior quarterback Willie Tuitama, who threw 28 touchdowns and almost 3,700 yards last season. Then add the explosive weapons in receiver Mike Thomas and tight end Rob Gronkowski, and good things could be in Arizona’s future.

    What’s more is the Wildcats have a year of experience in Dykes’ system.

    “”(Camp) has been cool,”” Thomas said. “”The bond we have for one another is just better so I think that plays a role on the field and we will just feed off that energy.””

    With less than a week remaining until Arizona’s opener, the expectations are just as high as in the past and the Wildcats seem just as poised to take another shot at the postseason.

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