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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Junior QB Heavner returns

    Arizonas Kris Heavner lies in angst after throwing an interception which was returned by UCLAs Rodney Leisle (77) for a touchdown late in UCLAs 24-21 win in Tucson, Ariz., October 11, 2003. It was Heavners third interception of the game. (Saul Loeb/Arizona Daily Wildcat)
    Saul Loeb
    Arizona’s Kris Heavner lies in angst after throwing an interception which was returned by UCLA’s Rodney Leisle (77) for a touchdown late in UCLA’s 24-21 win in Tucson, Ariz., October 11, 2003. It was Heavner’s third interception of the game. (Saul Loeb/Arizona Daily Wildcat)

    Heaving them up … again

    As the Arizona football team spends its 2006 spring practice schedule focusing on question marks at running back and defensive line, junior quarterback Kris Heavner has just one priority.

    Soaking it all in again.

    “”Right now, I’m just glad to be back,”” said Heavner, who transferred to Baylor after the 2004 season but returned to Arizona last fall. “”I understand I’m at the bottom of the depth chart, and I have to work my way up.””

    Given the firm grasp freshman Willie Tuitama has on his position, Heavner isn’t likely to build on his 2-12 record as a starter this fall.

    But as Tuitama and select other teammates hung around to speak to the media on Jimenez Practice Field last night, following the first of the team’s 11 practices before the April 22 Spring Game, Heavner couldn’t help but smile.

    Gone was the pressure of being named the No.1 guy, despite not throwing a touchdown, going into the last week of spring practices two years ago.

    In fact, all of his then-rivals – Nic Costa, Ryan O’Hara and Richard Kovalcheck – are now gone, each casualties of a mix of frustration and an inability to lift the Wildcats from the depths of the Pacific 10 Conference standings. (Kovalcheck left the team after last season, Stoops said in February.)

    Meanwhile, the team built itself up through experience and a pair of top-20 recruiting classes. Now Heavner has the opportunity to play out his remaining two years of eligibility in relative peace.

    “”I feel it’s a comfortable position for him to come back,”” said senior wide receiver Syndric Steptoe, who led Arizona in yards and receptions in 2004. “”He already knows the offense. It’s more to help Willie out.””

    Heavner’s seeming final pass as a Wildcat, a 10-yard completion, came in the team’s 34-27 win over then-No. 18 ASU at Arizona Stadium in the annual Territorial Cup rivalry game in 2004. Heavner was inserted because Kovalchek took a hard hit and had to come out of the game briefly, but it would be Heavner’s lone pass attempt.

    Kovalcheck filled the starter’s role that day, as he had the previous four games after replacing Heavner in the fourth quarter against Oregon down 28-0.

    Heavner finished only 9-of-24 with two interceptions against Oregon before being lifted. Kovalcheck entered in relief and led Arizona to two touchdown drives in the last two minutes.

    With three more scores through the air against the Sun Devils, Kovalcheck seemed the likely starter going into the spring. Heavner told The Associated Press a week after the ASU win that he wanted to play closer to his family in Johnson City, Texas.

    Heavner transferred to Baylor in time to participate in last year’s spring practices, but he said he realized quickly that things wouldn’t be as he had hoped.

    understand I’m at the bottom of the depth chart, and I have to work my way up.
    – Kris Heavner, junior quarterback

    Having kept in contact with former roommates Steptoe and junior wide receiver Anthony Johnson, among other players, he said he contacted Stoops about returning to the squad and spent last fall working out with the Arizona baseball team.

    “”The decision, the circumstances he was in, it was a good decision for him,”” Steptoe said. “”I mean, I appreciate coach Stoops for letting him back and giving him another chance. You always got to give someone a second chance. No matter what they do with it, if you give them a second chance, it’s on them.””

    Arizona offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Mike Canales said Heavner enters the spring No. 3 among the quarterbacks, behind Tuitama and junior Adam Austin, and that he will get regular, though limited, repetitions to get reacquainted with the offense.

    “”We’ve changed some things and the terminology’s a little different from what we were doing, but a lot of it’s the same,”” Canales said. “”He’s starting to piece it back together.””

    Heavner said he had no trouble getting back into football shape, thanks to time spent with Arizona strength coach Corey Edmond, and Canales said his throwing mechanics have become smoother since leaving the team.

    You always got to give someone a second chance. No matter what they do with it, if you give them a second chance, it’s on them.
    -Syndric Steptoe, junior wide receiver

    “”I think he realizes there’s a good thing going on around here, and he wants to be a part of it,”” Canales said. “”We’ve accepted him back, and I think he’s a good person to have around. I think he’s a good leader and someone the players will respond to.””

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