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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

COMIC: Rat’s Nest #3
Olivia MoreyFebruary 28, 2024
 

    Pre-play audibles key for Wildcats

    After losing to USC by a touchdown last Saturday, the Arizona football team felt that only a handful of plays separated it from possibly one of the best teams in the nation.

    One play that has stuck with UA quarterback Willie Tuitama came late in the second quarter, when he had a blunder with a pre-play audible.

    With Arizona trailing the Trojans 10-3 before halftime and no timeouts left, the Wildcats were set up nicely with a first-and-10 at the USC 33 yardline. Tuitama changed the play before the snap from a pass to a run, and running back Nic Grigsby was dropped for a loss of a yard.

    The Wildcats were forced to spike the ball on second down and ended up going into the locker room without any additional points after a missed field goal by Jason Bondzio.

    “”That call was on me,”” Tuitama said. “”It was just a bad check, and I need to know and realize that we didn’t have any timeouts left and that is something I really didn’t realize. (USC) only had five guys in the box, so I tried to check a run and get a big play off of that because they had so many guys back in coverage.””

    While Tuitama may have made a crucial mistake in one of Arizona’s biggest games this season, the Wildcats coaching staff has been quite pleased with his decision making both before the play and during.

    The fact of the matter is that Tuitama is involved in pre-play changes, whether it be changing the direction of a run play or altering a specific route one of the receivers is running, if not completely modifying the play.

    The quarterback looks for an array of different things before lining up to get the snap, including different coverage packages and how many people the opposing defenses stack in the box.

    “”I don’t know exactly know how often I audible before the play,”” Tuitama said. “”A lot of the times it is just changing little things, or if they are loading up the box, I can change it to a quick hitch just to get the ball out.

    “”I call two plays in the huddle, and then there are two more plays on my wristband,”” Tuitama added. “”So sometimes I have four different plays and I have plays I know I can check to.””

    For as many changes as Tuitama is engaged in, there have been more successful ones given his solid recognition of opposing defenses. And the coaching staff is pleased to give him that responsibility, even though sometimes it can be game-changing.

    In Arizona’s offense, pre-play audibles are a somewhat regular occurrence.

    “”We checked some screens into some bad looks three or four times in the (USC) game and part of that is because USC closes on the ball so quickly,”” said Arizona offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes. “”The thing that (Tuitama) probably improved as much as anything from this year to last year is his ability to check us into good plays.

    “”We didn’t do a good job of that Saturday, but most of the year we have done a pretty good job of that,”” Dykes added.

    Tuitama’s checks don’t only come before the play. The senior has shown good judgment in play to find secondary receivers and keep tabs on all of his options, and Arizona head coach Mike Stoops has been pleased with the veteran’s decision making.

    “”He makes the most decisions game in and game out,”” Stoops said. “”The quarterback has to get you in and out of plays and Willie has done a good job of that all year, and that’s usually a progression that takes time and the understanding of the offense and defense and what’s good and what isn’t.

    “”You always want to have the option of getting into a better play at the line of scrimmage,”” Stoops added. “”And Willie does a good job with that.””

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