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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Defense dominates in first spring scrimmage

    Arizona quarterback Willie Tuitama looks to pass during the first open scrimmage of the spring practice season, Saturday, April 1, 2006 at Arizona Stadium. (Photo by Chris Coduto/Arizona Daily Wildcat)
    Arizona quarterback Willie Tuitama looks to pass during the first open scrimmage of the spring practice season, Saturday, April 1, 2006 at Arizona Stadium. (Photo by Chris Coduto/Arizona Daily Wildcat)

    2006 Spring football

    By the time the Arizona football team’s first spring scrimmage wound down to its 57th and final play Saturday at Arizona Stadium, freshman quarterback Willie Tuitama and redshirt sophomore running back Chris Henry had hinted at the type of offensive efficiency fans have longed for over the last two seasons.

    One 85-yard interception return for a touchdown later, however, it was clear the Wildcats will continue to make baby steps toward improvement.

    “”The first week back is always rough,”” said Arizona head coach Mike Stoops. “”(But) I like the way the team has worked and practiced. We still have some fundamentals to clean up, but we’ve got about 70 to 80 percent of our stuff in and haven’t made a lot of mistakes.””

    The most glaring miscue for Tuitama came on his last pass of the 75-minute practice.

    Sophomore cornerback Wilrey Fontenot, who along with fellow sophomore cornerback Antoine Cason is expected to anchor the

    Spotlight performance

    Offense: Chris Henry (running back – redshirt sophomore): 18 carries, 53 yards; 1 reception, 30 yards

    Defense: Wilrey Fontenot (cornerback – sophomore): 85-yard interception return for touchdown

    secondary, jumped in front of redshirt sophomore wide receiver Anthony Johnson at the 15-yard line and dashed 85 yards untouched to the end zone.

    No one trailed Fontenot for the last 40 yards, as players and coaches were already scurrying off the field.

    “”Wilrey Fontenot’s probably been our most improved player,”” Arizona head coach Mike Stoops said. “”Again, I think our secondary’s really stepped up.””

    Henry put together an impressive performance of his own, rushing for 42 yards on the day’s opening drive, including a 25-yarder after juking Cason in the right flat.

    Henry, in a three-way competition for the starting job this spring with redshirt freshmen running backs Xavier Smith and Terry Longbons, ended with 53 yards on 18 carries.

    In their first on-field action as Wildcats, Smith rushed seven times for 21 yards and Longbons carried once for three yards.

    “”All three of us did good. The fullbacks did good,”” Henry said. “”The only reason we did good was because our O-line was gelling. They picked up all their blocks.””

    After Tuitama threw a touchdown pass to redshirt freshman fullback Brandon Lopez on the 13th snap of the initial drive, the Arizona defense all but took over.

    Backup defensive end Jason Parker, a redshirt sophomore, had three of the Wildcats’ six sacks, as the two units held the first- and second-string offenses to just one score.

    Tuitama, who led the first string for five of nine offensive drives, finished 10-of-17 for 175 yards and an interception in his first full-contact duty since leaving the team’s season finale against ASU with a shoulder injury.

    Redshirt junior Adam Austin, last year’s spring starter, went 5-of-8 for 47 yards with the second-stringers.

    “”I could have improved on a couple things, but overall, I think that we worked pretty good as an offense,”” Tuitama said.

    The freshman struggled with throwing the deep ball on a warm, mostly windless morning.

    Displaying plenty of arm power, Tuitama missed on sideline routes to his two top wide receivers, freshman Mike Thomas and junior Syndric Steptoe, who combined for 36 yards on two receptions.

    Stoops said he thought the protection given by the first- and second-string offensive lines lacked at times.

    “”That’s something we have to clean up because I believe (if) we give Willie ample opportunity, he’s going to be able to do some damage and get some work done down the field,”” Stoops said.

    Thanks in part to Arizona leaning on the run (33 of 57 plays), linebackers finished as the top three tacklers.

    Redshirt sophomore linebacker Ronnie Palmer, who led the team in tackles last spring but went on to endure an injury-hampered season, headed a long list of players with five.

    Sophomore linebacker Spencer Larsen and his backup, redshirt freshman linebacker Xavier Kelley, each had four.

    “”The running backs were running good, the offensive line blocked good – defensively, we even did good,”” Henry said. “”We looked real good out here.””

    Arizona will hold its second open-public scrimmage next Saturday at Arizona Stadium.

    Notes

    The starting time for the Wildcats’ annual Spring Game on April 22 has been pushed back an hour to 1 p.m. … The team had a brief practice at Jimenez practice facility before the scrimmage, as the offense and defense competed in two 10-minute drills. In passing situations, Tuitama completed 4-of-10 passes, while Austin went 2-of-3 with an interception. … Lopez, who had four receptions for 35 yards in 2005, finished as Tuitama’s favorite target with three catches for 13 yards. “”If there’s no one else out there, and he’s out there, I’m going to throw it to him,”” Tuitama said. … Henry took part in both of the day’s longest plays. On the third-to-last snap, Henry took a screen pass from Tuitama and ran 30 yards to the 11-yard line. … Henry fumbled toward the end of the game after taking a vicious hit from Palmer on first down. Redshirt freshman guard Joe Longacre recovered the ball, and Henry sat out a play before returning.

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