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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Gronkowski to sit out opener against Idaho

    Arizona football head coach Mike Stoops announced at his weekly press conference yesterday that sophomore tight end Rob Gronkowski will miss the Wildcats’ opener against Idaho on Saturday.

    Gronkowski was diagnosed with strep throat over the weekend and underwent more testing for mononucleosis yesterday. While Stoops never stated that Gronkowski tested positive for mono, he did say that the tight end could end up missing approximately four weeks because of the illness.

    The sophomore, who established himself as the Wildcats’ go-to tight end last season, will be held out of practice this week while recovering and undergoing more testing.

    “”I think Robby is pretty much ruled out of this game,”” Stoops said. “”I am confident it won’t be a significant amount of time. It would be three or four weeks at the most.””

    The loss of a tight end could be a major one, given Arizona had big plans for Gronkowski in this year’s offense. Offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes said after Saturday’s practice he could see Gronkowski hauling in 100 passes this season.

    As a freshman, Gronkowski caught 28 passes for over 500 yards and six touchdowns, impressing the coaching staff enough to include him as an integral part of the offense in the spread’s second year at Arizona.

    Instead, sophomore tight end A.J. Simmons will get the starting nod in the Wildcats’ offense. Simmons played in 10 games last season, but only caught one pass that went for a touchdown in Arizona’s 21-20 loss to Stanford.

    Because Gronkowski became such a signifcant part of Arizona’s aerial attack last year, the Wildcats may add an extra receiver to the spread to compensate for the loss of the tight end.

    Despite adjusting to the role of backup throughout camp, Simmons was excited about getting the opportunity to contribute as a starter.

    “”I am just going to make the most of my opportunity,”” Simmons said. “”I am just going to go out there, play hard, and do exactly what I have been coached to do. I am a pretty physical guy. I am a playmaker, and I think you all will see that on Saturday.””

    Scott, Golden to have impact for Wildcats Saturday

    Despite having a multitude of experience returning on the offense this season, Stoops said he felt freshmen were still going to have an impact on that side of the ball for the Wildcats this year. Some, he said, could see the field as soon as Saturday.

    “”There (are) probably six or seven freshman that will look at a decent amount of (playing) time, some more than others,”” Stoops said. “”I would say probably Matt Scott, Keola Antolin, Juron Criner, David Douglas, possibly Vaughn Dotsy, Robert Golden, Jowyn Ward, guys like that I think. How much? We’ll see.””

    Perhaps the most interesting out of the bunch is freshman quarterback Matt Scott, a dual threat in his dynamic ability to make plays on his feet or through the air.

    Arizona has added a zone read package for Scott, who has specialized in that offense throughout camp, and which could throw him into action in certain situations as early as the Idaho game.

    Despite some of the freshman’s struggles throughout fall camp, Stoops said he would be confident tossing Scott into game action to give the Wildcats’ offense an extra wrinkle.

    “”Matt is our No. 2 guy right now (at quarterback) and we’ll see how he continues to progress,”” Stoops said. “”We would like to get him some snaps in situations. We just have to see how the flow of the games goes and where we are at.

    “”Matt has had some ups and downs and that is not unusual for a young quarterback in his first full time job here,”” Stoops added. “”There are certain things that Matt does better than others right now, so we will feature those things. We certainly have a package with him that we will feature more than obviously Willie (Tuitama).””

    On the defensive side of the ball, where the Wildcats will certainly be experimenting this season, freshman defensive back Robert Golden could also receive a considerable amount of playing time for the Wildcats.

    Golden, the player most often considered as Arizona’s best recruit of last year, has seen time as both cornerback and in nickel situations, places Stoops said he felt Golden would get a shot at Saturday.

    “”I think Robert would be the next one with significant playing time,”” Stoops said. “”He’ll play both (nickel and cornerback). He is backing up at both positions right now. We would like to get Robert some snaps at both positions. He will be starting at all of our special teams.””

    Keenyn Crier ready to assume punting responsibilities

    Arizona punter Keenyn Crier busted onto the scene as a freshman last year, but minor back surgery to remove a cyst earlier this month threatened to keep the punter out to start the year.

    “”That’s no longer the case,”” Stoops said, and announced that Crier will be Arizona’s starting punter for their opener against Idaho on Saturday.

    Crier turned out to become one of the better punters in the nation a year ago, carrying a 43.7-yard average en route to being honored as a member of the First-Team All-Pacific 10 Conference squad.

    The highlight of Crier’s season came in Los Angeles, where he punted a ball 83 yards against Southern California, the second longest in Arizona history.

    “”He will start this week,”” Stoops said. “”He is our punter and he will go full (in practice) and we feel good about Keenyn. I think he has a fresh leg and he’ll punt well.””

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