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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Big shoes to fill

Peter Bernal 520.979.4691

For 38 straight games, redshirt sophomore center Kyle Quinn served as an understudy to Arizona’s tough guy and four-year starter, Colin Baxter.

“”Ever since I got here three years ago I’ve been learning everything I can from him,”” said Quinn, who called Baxter one of the best centers to ever play (at Arizona).

But with Baxter undergoing knee surgery earlier this month, Quinn will put all of the notes and tips he’s learned to use as he makes his first career start against Oklahoma State in the Valero Alamo Bowl on Wednesday.

“”As a player you can’t ask for a better opportunity than this,”” Quinn said. “”Playing in a bowl game is what you think about when you’re a kid and now, let alone your first college game is going to be a bowl game, it’s pretty exciting.””

The Wildcats will sorely miss Baxter’s toughness, production and leadership. He’s a vocal leader in the huddle who leads by example — evident by his 48-game consecutive start streak.

Junior quarterback Nick Foles said “”it’s different”” without Baxter in the huddle, but the senior center is going to be at all of the practices in San Antonio, as well as on the sidelines of the game, helping Quinn and the Arizona offense.

“”He’s still going to be out there, he’s going to be in Kyle’s ear, he’s going to be in our ear. We’re not going to skip a beat he’s going to be there with us,”” Foles said. “”It’s not like we’re losing him, he’s still going to be a huge part of our team and he’s going to be out there leading us.””

But reality is, as Baxter rehabs and prepares for a shot at the 2011 NFL Draft, the Wildcats will lean heavily on Quinn to make the right calls, even if Baxter is in the Alamodome.

Senior offensive tackle Adam Grant said he and Baxter have taken turns watching film with Quinn, teaching him the ins and outs of the game. Quinn is talented, but still quite raw having played in only seven career games, none of which were anywhere near the magnitude of the Alamo Bowl.

Is he ready to get the job done?

“”Sure he is,”” said offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh. “”He’s been here for three years. There will be some growing pains but like I said I’m confident he’ll get the job done.””

Bedenbaugh said that Quinn has “”unbelievable talent”” noting that the 6-foot-2, 310-pound center is big, but athletic compared to your average center. Grant, a sixth-year senior, echoed Bedenbaugh’s statement.

“”He can get it done. He’s the next good center, I think at U of A,”” he said. “”He’s definitely got all the tools to be a great center like Colin. I’ve got all my trust in him.””

Arizona hasn’t played a game without Baxter under center since Sept. 8, 2007. The Wildcats would clearly prefer to have their leader in the huddle, but Quinn is the incumbent and it’s his time to take over the reigns for the present and in the future.

“”The last thing I wanted to do was come in for him when he got hurt, but you never know when your number is going to be called in college football and it’s my time to step up,”” Quinn said.

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