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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Bowl game already on Wildcats’ minds

    After a season in which the Arizona football team became bowl-eligible for the first time since 1998, expectations for the 2007 season are sky high.

    Finishing with six wins, six losses and no postseason, the Wildcats’ win total equaled that of the first two years of Mike Stoops’ tenure combined. Still, the team finished 115th in the nation in total offense and near the bottom of the NCAA Division I list in several other offensive categories.

    Arizona has hired a new offensive coordinator, Sonny Dykes, from Texas Tech, whose new air-raid style of play is expected to revive the impotent offense and potentially help the Wildcats end their nine-year bowl drought.

    “”After going through the whole spring, we’re definitely a whole lot better and definitely a couple steps ahead of where coach Dykes thought we would be,”” said quarterback Willie Tuitama, who is expected to carry a large load on his shoulders in the pass-heavy offense.

    “”We just have to get bigger, faster and stronger,”” Tuitama said. “”We have to get better on timing and understanding what the other person is going to do at all times. Other than that, we just have to watch film and keep playing the offense.””

    While expectations are high for the offense, Arizona is still a defensive-minded team that returns all but two starters from last season.

    Arizona will gladly welcome back cornerback Antoine Cason and defensive end Louis Holmes, both seniors, to a defense that held its opponents to 19.6 points per game in 2006.

    “”If we limit a touchdown each game, we can make that (13) points a game,”” Cason said. “”It’s hard to make it come to that, but that’s what we set out for.

    “”Most of us have been starting together for two years now, so we should all be better as a whole.””

    On top of spring football practices, Cason spent the spring running track to improve his speed. It was widely thought Cason was as good as gone after he tied the team lead with three interceptions and had the only interception returned for a touchdown in the 2006 season.

    Many speculated he would enter the NFL Draft, but he’s back as one of the top-rated corners in the country and the defensive star of the team.

    “”The team has improved drastically since I first got here,”” Cason said. “”It seems like everyone is working a lot harder than they used to be. The goals are a lot higher and the expectations are higher.””

    With expectations as high as they are, it would surely be seen as a disappointment if the Wildcats finished with anything less than a bowl-game appearance.

    “”It’s very important,”” Cason said of a bowl berth. “”You can’t expect to do it and then not do it. We set out to do it. We have to put in the time and work to achieve it. That would not be good if we didn’t make it. It’s real important for us to make it for this program.””

    Added Tuitama, “”It’s definitely going to be important for us to win, especially after those games last year where we lost by real close.

    “”We should definitely be able to fit in with the rest of the Pac-10 this year.””

    Late hits

    The Wildcats will be hurt by the loss of three scholarships in the incoming fall class and four overall due to not scoring high enough on the Academic Progress Report released last week.

    The UA football program was the only team in the Pacific 10 Conference and the only BCS football squad to be penalized.

    “”It’s definitely not good because we’re not going to be able to pick up some more guys,”” Tuitama said. “”That’s going to end up hurting us a little bit.””

    Former UA defensive end Marcus Smith was picked up by the Dallas Cowboys on Friday as an undrafted free agent. Smith is the third former UA player to either be drafted or signed by the Cowboys since last year’s draft. The other two are Nick Folk (selected in the fourth round this year) and Darrell Brooks (an undrafted free agent in 2006).

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