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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Senior class put Arizona football on national radar

Thursday’s game against ASU will mark the end of an era Arizona’s seniors will leave their blood, sweat and tears on the Arizona Stadium field one last time in their regular season finale as Wildcats.

Although their careers are coming to an end, this senior class has certainly left an impact on Arizona football forever.

“”Their legacy will be, I think, firmly cemented,”” head coach Mike Stoops said of his seniors.

The Wildcats’ senior class was the main cog in Arizona football’s race to relevancy after struggling for years on end. Thanks to those seniors, the Wildcats have turned the page and are on the verge of playing in their third consecutive bowl game, tying a school record and giving them the second-longest active bowl streak in the Pacific 10 Conference.

“”This is the first class that really set us up for success, and that’s really what’s happened over the last three years,”” Stoops said of his seniors. “”This class has given us a chance to be successful. Now we’ve been able to recruit on top of it and that’s what you have to be able to do to sustain winning.””

Arizona football used to be an afterthought in the Pac-10. In the first four seasons of Stoops’ seven-year reign, the Wildcats were a combined 17-29 with zero bowl game appearances.

But once the seniors of 2010 began to progress, Arizona became a continual threat and even earned an AP Top 10 ranking along the way.

“”I had some friends from high school say (Arizona is no good), but I believed in what coach Stoops was preaching and what the coaching staff had here,”” said sixth-year senior tackle Adam Grant. “”We had 2-10 seasons, 3-9 in the first couple years I was here and we were hoping to just to go to bowl games and now we’re fighting to go to better bowl games. It’s definitely a turnaround.””

From center Colin Baxter, to Grant, to defensive ends Ricky Elmore and Brooks Reed, to nose guard Lolomana Mikaele, Arizona’s seniors sparked a run that finally has Wildcats’ football on the map.

“”The senior class really came here when the program was kind of in shambles,”” said Reed. “”We’re kind of on the uprising now.””

Stoops called his senior class a “”unique group”” and applauded their ability to fight through even the toughest of circumstances.

“”These guys have persevered and been through some adverse circumstances and that’s what I’ll always remember about this group of seniors,”” Stoops said. “”And did it the right way. This is a very classy group of players that do a lot of their talking on the field.””

While the majority of the seniors have two games left in their football career, a select few are NFL-bound. Stoops said that “”there’s NFL players in this class of players”” and mentioned Baxter, Reed, Elmore, D’Aundre Reed and Mikaele as potential candidates.

Whether or not those players can make the jump to the pros remains to be seen, but more game against rival ASU is guaranteed, and the seniors would love nothing more than to go out in style.

“”If we can win this game, to win three in a row (against ASU) would be very significant for these seniors,”” Stoops said.

Brooks Reed

Class: 2006

Position: Defensive end

Games: 41

Tackles: 106

Sacks: 16

On his best memory: “”Going to the first bowl game in 10 years and winning the Las Vegas Bowl. That was probably one of the high points. Going to two bowls two years in a row, that’s huge. Beating Iowa. There’s a lot of huge games that we’ve won, games I’ll never forget.””

On what Arizona football has meant to him: “”You know, I’m here in my hometown, it’s always a lot of people that come out and watch me every week and it means a lot to me. I come to play my best and represent Tucson””

On NFL hopes: “”It means a lot to me. It’s always been a goal of mine as a kid and it’s just part of that process of getting to the next level.””

Ricky Elmore

Position: Defensive end

Class: 2006

Games: 49

Tackles: 119

Sacks: 22.5

On his best memory: “”Seeing the ZonaZoo, the biggest student section in the Pac-10, and some of my teammates and the camaraderie I’ve had during my time.””

What Arizona football has meant to him: “”They gave me the opportunity to play here. If it wasn’t for them I really don’t know where I would have been. I’ve had a good career and a lot of good memories. You really don’t know what something means to you until it’s gone, so it’s kind of hard to say. I think it’s just going to (be) kind of hard to walk away, but all things have to come to an end.””

On NFL hopes: “”I just want to focus on where we are right now. If I want to keep on playing all of those things are just questions, nothing’s guaranteed. But these next two games are guaranteed so I want to focus on them.””

Adam Grant

Position: Offensive tackle

Class: 2005

On his best memory: “”Definitely got to play with a lot of great players, Antoine (Cason), Spencer (Larsen). I played under some great coaches. Coach Bill (Bedenbaugh) is a great coach, coach Stoops is a great guy.””

On what Arizona football has meant to him: “”I think I was really blessed to come here and play. I’m pretty happy with what we did and I think we helped turn the program around pretty significantly, and hopefully some of the younger guys can keep building on that and eventually go to bigger games than us.””

Colin Baxter

Position: Center

Class: 2006

Stats: Started 48 consecutive games at center, a school record for an offensive lineman. Never missed a practice in four years.

Nic Grigsby

Class: 2007

Stats: 2,891 rushing yards, 28 rushing TDs

Conan Amituanai

Position: Offensive guard

Class: 2006

Quote:  “”Conan was a defensive player (out of high school) but he’s really played well.”” – Stoops

Joe Perkins

Position: Safety

Class: 2008 (JC)

Anthony Wilcox

Position: Safety

Class: 2008 (JC)

D’Aundre Reed

Position: Defensive end

Class: 2006

Travis Cobb

Position: Wide receiver

Class: 2009 (JC)

Keenyn Crier

Position: Punter

Class: 2006

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