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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    RB makes strides from Ju-Co

    Last year, Arizona wasn’t sure it had the playmaker it needed at the running back position. This year there’s no such problem as the Wildcats have four running backs who make coaches comfortable when the ball is in their hands.

    The starter for this season will be the savior of last year’s running attack, sophomore Nic Grigsby. After amassing 759 yards and two touchdowns on the ground- and another 200 yards and two touchdowns receiving-ÿGrigsby is expected to eclipse those numbers this season. If Grigsby does go down with an injury, at least Arizona won’t see too much of a drop off- if any- from newcomer Nick Booth. The junior college transfer from the College of DuPage in Naperville, Ill., is listed at 6-foot-2 and 221 pounds and has a rare combination of size,

    toughness, speed and agility.

    “”He’s a big, strong, athletic guy who brings speed to our offense and he’s working himself into some playing time this season,”” said UA head coach Mike Stoops, adding he will likely see some game action Saturday against Idaho.

    Booth gained 1,090 yards and scored 15 touchdowns on 173 carries at DuPage, and he added another six catches for 143 yards. Despite the low receiving numbers, that doesn’t mean Booth has hands of stone.

    “”He’s got really good hands and he’s picked up on the offense very fast,”” said running backs coach Dana Dimel. “”He’s also not afraid to put his face in there and pass protect, so he’s got a well-rounded game. There’s not a major weakness in his game.””

    The main thing that coaches say Booth needs to work on is just adjusting from the junior college game to the NCAA game, and having a consistent level of production in one of the six major Bowl Championship Series conferences. Even though, according to Booth, DuPage ran a similar style of spread offense to UA offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes’ scheme, he agrees he needs to make some slight adjustments in order to get on the same page as backs who are entering their second year in the system.

    “”The defensive players are a little quicker all around. They make their reads quicker (than junior college players),”” Booth said. “”You have to think on the run.

    “”But the transition is going well,”” Booth added. “”Coach Dimel is doing a great job with the running backs, explaining everything and keeping us so I can keep learning at a fast past. He tests our minds everyday.””

    Grigsby and junior running back Xavier Smith have been helping Booth grasp all the nuances of the offense throughout preseason practices and during their preparations for Idaho.

    “”If somebody does something wrong, everybody in the backfield is one group and we’re gonna stay together and work hard,”” Grigsby said. “”We’re trying to teach him the offense. He knows the plays, he’ll hit the hole, we’re just trying to teach him the offense and get him ready to play.””

    With Booth’s comprehension of the offense steadily progressing, his consistency will come in time. The thing with which Booth is most consistent so far is how nice he is.

    “”During recruiting, we thought, ‘Gosh, is this guy for real?’ He’s always in a good mood, he’s always smiling, he’s always positive,”” Dimel said. “”We said, ‘Well, somewhere in here we’re going to see some type of character flaw,’ but I haven’t seen one. What you see is what you get. He’s a real, genuinely nice kid.””

    But don’t confuse his niceness with softness. He might just flash that wide, toothy grin of his just before he lowers his should pads and knocks someone into next week.

    “”There’s a big difference with being tough and being mean,”” Dimel said. “”He’s just a good, tough, hard-working kid.””

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