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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Readjusting the protection

    Arizona center Blake Kerley, 50, injured his left knee in the third quarter of the Wildcats 31-10 win over UCLA Saturday in Pasadena, Calif. Kerley will likely miss the rest of the season, forcing redshirt sophomore guard Colin Baxter to move to center and junior Mike Diaz to start in Baxters place.
    Arizona center Blake Kerley, 50, injured his left knee in the third quarter of the Wildcats’ 31-10 win over UCLA Saturday in Pasadena, Calif. Kerley will likely miss the rest of the season, forcing redshirt sophomore guard Colin Baxter to move to center and junior Mike Diaz to start in Baxter’s place.

    The Arizona football team might be off to its best start since 2002, but not everything has gone according to plan.

    The Wildcat offense was supposed to be running on all cylinders for the UCLA game with sophomore tight end Rob Gronkowski’s return to the starting lineup after he missed the first three games of the season due to mononucleosis. But in the third quarter of the 31-10 win over the Bruins, sophomore UA center Blake Kerley went down with an injury and the initial news has not been good for him.

    Kerley injured the ACL in his left knee and head coach Mike Stoops said he’s “”99 percent sure”” he will miss the rest of the season, prompting a rearrangement to Arizona’s protection scheme.

    “”We always have to have a contingency plan for our center or any other position, so we’ve prepared for this long before this week so it’s not a big deal to us,”” Stoops said.

    As a result of Kerley’s mishap, redshirt sophomore Colin Baxter will now have to adjust to a new role. The former starting guard will move to center while junior Mike Diaz will take Baxter’s place at guard.

    While no injury can be good for any team, Arizona was somewhat fortunate in that Kerley’s loss occurred before its bye week, allowing the new faces to settle into their new jobs.

    “”What I like about these weeks is you really get to focus on your fundamentals,”” said offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes. “”We’re not so much planning for Washington as it is looking at what we’re doing and breaking some of our tendencies and getting things polished up.””

    Diaz, a Montbello, Calif. native, was able to get past the jitters of being thrust into a starting role in front of a “”home crowd”” at the Rose Bowl. Now, Diaz said he needs to continue to make the adjustment from backup to starter, but the extra reps he’ll receive during Arizona’s bye week will only give him more time to familiarize himself with his newfound responsibilities.

    “”Stuff happens and I have to step up now and get it done,”” Diaz said. “”Now that you’re in, you’ve got to step it up. Everything is on the move. You have to think faster, play faster; that’s how it is.””

    While Baxter’s adjustment should be easier since he was already a starter, he said Diaz shouldn’t have many problems and expects Diaz’s production level to be very similar to his own.

    “”I think (Diaz) has a lot of potential. I think he’ll do just fine,”” Baxter said. “”He’s a big physical guy. … He’s pretty well rounded. We’ve just got to make sure he’s good assignment-wise and then he’s good to go.””

    Injuries are a part of any sport, but especially in the high impact nature of football. The Wildcats have been fortunate to not have more significant injuries than Kerley’s, but if the new starters play within themselves and heed the coaches’ advice, it should be a smooth transition.

    “”I think Colin moving to center will play well, I think it’s a good position for him, and Mike Diaz has a good chance to be a great guard,”” Dykes said. “”I think those guys just need to step up and become the kind of players that they think they can, and if those guys can do that we’ll be fine.””

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