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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Two for the show

Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Wildcat

Wildcat football practice on Saturday at Arizona Stadium.
Mike Christy
Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Wildcat Wildcat football practice on Saturday at Arizona Stadium.

Arizona’s offense was in the hands of quarterback Willie Tuitama for the last four years. It was a comforting time for Wildcat football: Tuitama was a leader, dependable and, as his career grew, even matured into a winner.

The Wildcats haven’t had to worry about the starting quarterback position for quite some time, but they are now.

Since Tuitama’s final snap in the Las Vegas Bowl last December, there has been a well-publicized competition between sophomore Matt Scott and redshirt sophomore Nick Foles. And just days away from the season opener against Central Michigan, neither quarterback has separated himself enough to be named a starter.

“”It’ll either be Nick or Matt, we’d like to see them both play,”” said head coach Mike Stoops in an Aug. 31 press conference. “”We’ll continue to evaluate that as we go through the season. Hopefully it works its way out, but right now there’s just not a guy that you can just say flat out beat the other guy.””

It was first believed that Scott was heir apparent until Foles showed coaches in the spring that he had every right to be considered for the starting job. The two duked it out throughout the spring and summer, entering fall camp in a dead heat. After a few weeks it appeared that Scott had taken a firm grasp of the job, and Stoops could finally justify naming him as the starter — that is, until he struggled in the team’s final scrimmage, while Foles shined.

No timetable has been set for naming quarterback, and there is no formula on how that will be decided. Until further notice, Foles and Scott will remain co-quarterbacks.

“”That’s just an instinctive feel,”” Stoops said when asked when he will rotate the two quarterbacks against Central Michigan in Arizona’s season opener. “”Sometimes you just look at the players’ eyes and you get that feeling or you don’t get that feeling. You have to see if he’s not feeling it, maybe he’s intimidated by the situation, his body language isn’t what you want it to be — those are just instincts you have to base your decisions on.””

Scott committed to Arizona with the idea that he would replace Tuitama and spent the 2008 season as Tuitama’s understudy and backup. His arm may not ‘wow’ anyone and it  has not been consistently accurate, but it’s Scott’s athleticism that brings a new dimension to the offense. He is one of the fastest players on the team and has already shown the ability to make plays with his feet to turn a broken play into a solid gain.

Foles, on the other hand, is a traditional pocket-passing quarterback. The 6-foot-5 signal caller from Austin, Texas, has the arm strength that every offensive coach covets. Foles transferred from Michigan State last off-season, limiting him to serving as the scout-team quarterback during practice. His athleticism is nowhere near Scott’s, but on the other hand, Scott’s arm is weaker than Foles’.

That could explain the difficulty in deciding who should start. In a way, the two are exact opposites.

“”They’re both drastically different players,”” Stoops said.

While the media surrounding the Wildcats has beaten the quarterback situation to death, the lack of a starter doesn’t seem to faze the team at all. In fact, they actually appear quite confident.

“”The quarterback thing, I’m not worried about it,”” said center Colin Baxter. “”That’ll work itself out and the best guy will play.””

The player snapping the ball to the quarterback isn’t fretting about who is calling the signals and neither are the receivers.

“”It doesn’t affect us at all, really,”” said wide receiver William “”Bug”” Wright. “”It doesn’t matter who’s back there, we still need to make plays.””

With the talent that Arizona has at its skill positions, it’s feasible that the offense could thrive without a “”face of the team”” quarterback.

The Wildcats have three running backs that are starter-quality, an H-back that can handle the ball like a receiver, five quality receivers and a tight end that is arguably the best in the nation. The talent on offense has given Stoops the opportunity to take his time naming a quarterback.

“”You would have liked to (name a starter by the first game), but I don’t necessarily see (that as) a bad thing,”” Stoops said. “”Both players, I believe, have gotten better and better and better, and both of them are playing at a high level right now.””

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