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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Football spring practice concludes

    UA defensive back Corey Hall (21) gets a hand on receiver Mike Thomas as he heads to the end zone in the Wildcats Spring Game in Arizona Stadium on Saturday. Thomas had three catches for 42 yards and a touchdown and Hall intercepted a Willie Tuitama pass in the game.
    UA defensive back Corey Hall (21) gets a hand on receiver Mike Thomas as he heads to the end zone in the Wildcats’ Spring Game in Arizona Stadium on Saturday. Thomas had three catches for 42 yards and a touchdown and Hall intercepted a Willie Tuitama pass in the game.

    With another spring in the books for the Arizona football team, the Wildcats’ identity for next season is still to be determined. Hopeful improvements have yet to be fully developed, nor have replacements for last year’s departed players completely solidified their spots.

    As of now, the Wildcats are still an offense trying to fully master the ropes of last year’s newly implemented spread offense and a “”no-name”” defense looking to become successful without the aid of a star player.

    They are, in fact, the true essence of an unproven team still in the rebuilding process.

    “”We have a lot of young guys who needed this spring to get in some good fundamental work,”” said Arizona head coach Mike Stoops. “”We have a long way to go, but I think for the first time offensively we are in a very positive place with this group that we have.

    “”Defensively we are just going to have to fight and play awfully hard, be prepared, and try to create some opportunities from all levels,”” Stoops added. “”We are going to have to be creative, but that’s OK.””

    With Saturday’s Spring Game at Arizona Stadium – in which the attendance was estimated at over 4,000 – marking the culmination of Arizona’s spring workouts, the Arizona coaching staff now has to look toward the summer to continue to evaluate the players heading into next year.

    If this spring was any indication of next year’s obstacles, the coaching staff is heavily relying on the offense to carry the young and unproven defense.

    In the Spring Game – which used a scoring system for categories such as first downs, touchdowns, plays over 30 yards, turnovers, defensive stops and three-and-outs – it was the offense that came out on top. The Arizona offense has won four times in a row under Stoops.

    “”We tried to get the ball down the field some. That’s one thing we’ve done a better job of is guys making plays down field,”” said offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes. “”I think we really improved as an offense and as a team. We’re still a young offense but I like the way those guys have started to grow up and we’re having some leadership emerge.””

    Arizona quarterback Willie Tuitama threw for 231 yards on 20 completions out of 36 attempts, including a 29-yard touchdown strike to Mike Thomas, his first touchdown reception in three spring scrimmages.

    Stoops has been impressed with Tuitama’s ability to continue to progress as the team’s leader, and the squad will undeniably be counting on him this year.

    Tuitama said he is ready to continue to take on the leadership responsibilities as a senior in the fall.

    When asked how much he felt he has improved since last year Tuitama said, “”eight times.””

    “”We’re not trying to overdo ourselves but we’re still making plays; that’s how this offense works is that you don’t have to do every little thing,”” Tuitama said. “”I thought that we did real good and (we need to) just keep moving the ball, keep getting the ball in guys’ hands that can make the plays and just keep it moving.””

    The Wildcat offense scored two touchdowns on the ground, one from expected starter Nic Grigsby and one from reserve Glyndon Bolasky on the final play of the scrimmage.

    Perhaps the most encouraging part of Arizona’s success was its ability to move the ball on less complex plays.

    “”I think everything needs work. In order for us to be good in this league you have to continue to work,”” Thomas said. “”But at the same time there were a lot of things we did well and a lot of things we did wrong. “”In critical situations like third-and-short and other situations like that, I think it’s real key to know we can run a simple play and still get a big gain out of it,”” Thomas added. “”It always adds a great addition to your offense when you have that kind of power.””

    The defense, on the other hand, is excited by the opportunity to thrive without a standout player.

    Arizona defensive coordinator Mark Stoops felt it was an advantage not to have one key player to continually rely on – as the team so often did with cornerback Antoine Cason a year ago – which would, in turn, bring out the best from everyone on the field.

    “”I think it will be fun and I think it will be a challenge,”” Stoops said. “”I like their attitude and they are eager to work, to listen and to be coachable. We just need to play fundamentally sound and we have to run around to the football and play hard.

    “”We will get them in the right position,”” Stoops added. “”They will just need to go and play hard and fast.””

    – Brian Kimball contributed reporting

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