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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Spring game: Things to watch for

Michael Ignatov / Arizona Daily Wildcat

University of Arizona meets Arizona State University in an NCAA mens football game in Arizona Stadium, Tucson, Ariz., Nov. 28, 2009. Arizona went on to win 20-17.
Michael Ignatov
Michael Ignatov / Arizona Daily Wildcat University of Arizona meets Arizona State University in an NCAA men’s football game in Arizona Stadium, Tucson, Ariz., Nov. 28, 2009. Arizona went on to win 20-17.

Think that the annual Arizona spring football game is meaningless? Think again.

Coaches around the country use the spring game, an intrasquad scrimmage held at the end of every spring football season, to find out what players improved since the end of the previous season. While it’s no guarantee, players who succeed on Saturday have an inside track at playing time for the 2010 season.

Here’s a look at five storylines to keep an eye on:

1. Can Arizona stay healthy?

One could realistically argue that, had it not been for injuries, Arizona might have ended up in the Rose Bowl rather than the Holiday Bowl. But injuries are part of the game, and the Wildcats have learned that the hard way this year. Competition and energy should be at a high level on Saturday, but injuries need to be avoided at all costs.

The key: How much will next year’s top players play? With last year’s injury bug in the back of everyone’s mind, it will be interesting to see how much the starters — especially tailback Nic Grigsby — will play on Saturday.

2. How will the passing game look?

Arizona had a good year offensively last season, but the passing game sputtered a bit down the stretch. The Wildcats will return all major skill position players from last year — only wide receiver Terrell Turner graduated — so the offense is expected to put up big numbers, especially through the air.

‘The key: Is Nick Foles taking shots downfield? Foles has a very strong arm, and Arizona has players who can stretch the field. Home run-type plays were noticeably few and far between last season, and that needs to change in 2010.

3. How will the play-calling go?

It was recently announced that running backs and tight ends coach Seth Littrell — a co-offensive coordinator with offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh — will call the plays this season. The spring game will be his first chance to call plays in a (somewhat) competitive environment.

The key: How will Littrell and quarterback Nick Foles communicate? Play calling in a scrimmage isn’t essential because most plays will be scripted, but this is an excellent opportunity for Littrell and Foles to start getting on the same page.

4. How are the co-defensive coordinators?

It’s a unique scenario: two coaches teaming up to fulfill one job and replace seven starters in the process. Linebackers coach Tim Kish and secondary coach Greg Brown have gotten along swimmingly in the spring, but whether the new players on defense have acclimated to the system yet is still unknown.

The key: How in sync is the secondary? If the Wildcats can minimize coverage and assignment confusion, then the defense should be on the right track.

5. How are the linebackers?

Junior college transfers Derek Earls and Paul Vassallo have received rave reviews since finally donning Arizona practice uniforms this spring. Linebacker is the Wildcats’ most glaring need heading into 2010, and, although the three positions aren’t set in stone yet, the results from Saturday will greatly impact who will start in September.

The key: Who will be the most ready to play?

At this point, the coaches are looking for the linebackers most comfortable in the system.

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