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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Arizona football: Wildcats begin road to Rose Bowl

Gordon Bates / Arizona Summer Wildcat
Gordon Bates
Gordon Bates / Arizona Summer Wildcat

The opening of fall camps around college football is always filled with optimism for the new season, but for Arizona football, one thing is very clear — Rose Bowl or bust.

“”A lot of guys are hungry for more and we’ve developed a good program and we know that we can win now at a high level,”” said defensive end Ricky Elmore.

Donning their new white helmets with the block Arizona “”A,”” the Wildcats opened fall camp on Thursday morning at Rincon Vista Sports Complex with the straightforward message that head coach Mike Stoops had his players looking to Pasadena, Calif.

“”We’ve had some success, but we have a chance do to something that’s never been done,”” Stoops said. “”I think our players understand just how wide open this thing is going to be and what a great year it’s going to be in the Pac-10 and what an opportunity we have.””

The Wildcat team’s mindset was firmly in place, even as they were working through conditioning drills. With the whole team reporting to camp, Arizona split time between offensive and defensive team drills, special teams positioning and ended the two-hour practice with 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 workouts.

Stoops said he was impressed with the way his team entered camp this season, especially noting the physical improvements of the offensive and defensive lines.

“”I like where we’re at. I like this team. I like what they did over the summer,”” Stoops said.

“”They’re serious about what they want to do and hopefully we can just continually get better.””

Thursday was also the first chance for Stoops to evaluate his recruiting class, including defensive standout Marquis Flowers, who has seen time with the first and second teams in practices.

“”I think you’re interested in what they look like, in what you recruited,”” Stoops said of seeing newcomers in action. “”Are they what you thought they were?””

Stoops said the impact of the freshmen might be felt as early as the season opener, depending on the needs of the team.

Unlike last season, quarterback Nick Foles knows exactly where he stands going into camp. He worked on throwing drills with the Wildcats’ veteran receiving corps and talked about the offense exploding this season.

“”It was nice to get back out here,”” Foles said. “”All the work in the summer, you can tell it paid off and that we’ve moved forward as a team.””

Foles said one of the main differences in this year’s team coming into camp was the mentality of the players. Veterans on the offensive side of the ball talked about taking younger players under their wings to help them see the vision of the program.

“”We also know we have to take it one game at a time, but that’s our ultimate goal — the Rose Bowl,”” Foles said.

Fall camp also meant the healthy return to action for running back Nic Grigsby. The senior missed three games last season and played through injury in six matchups as well.

“”I feel good, better than I’ve felt in long time,”” Grigsby said. “”Shoulder injury is just tragic in a big season. Luckily, I recovered from it.””

Grigsby, along with junior Keola Antolin and sophomore Greg Nwoko, give the Wildcats experienced depth at running back that will complement Foles’ passing attack and open up possibilities for co-offensive coordinators Bill Bedenbaugh and Seth Littrell. 

Shaking off the rust at camp and moving forward as a program is something Stoops said was a top priority. One of his biggest offseason changes for the seventh year coach and Arizona football is the change in philosophy and expectations.

“”I think that’s what motivates our players,”” Stoops said. “”To try and accomplish something that’s never been done in the history of Arizona football. I don’t know what could be more motivating than that.””

The Wildcats have another week of camp in Tucson before heading for Fort Huachuca on Aug. 11. They will kick off the season in Toledo, Ohio, on Sept. 5 on ESPN.

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