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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Energized, sharp defense sets tone for scrimmage”

    Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Wildcat

Wildcat football practice on Saturday at Arizona Stadium.
    Mike Christy
    Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Wildcat Wildcat football practice on Saturday at Arizona Stadium.

    While several key questions surrounding the Arizona offense remain unanswered – most notably who will be the starting quarterback and who can step in to solidify the offensive line – one thing the Wildcat coaching staff can be sure of is that the defense will be ready.

    The defense, donning blue jerseys, treated Saturday’s intra-squad scrimmage like it was a bowl game, and that passion pleased defensive coordinator Mark Stoops.

    “”I’m very happy,”” Stoops said. “”(The team is) pretty disciplined, so to see the energy out here today is good. We were excited to get a good scrimmage out here, on a beautiful day, just tee it up and play ball.””

    The scrimmage lasted 85 plays, and the defense took advantage of each one of them. A heavy rotation gave the coaching staff an opportunity to see certain players at different positions show what they have and help the Wildcats gain some depth.

    One player who stood out defensively was cornerback Mike Turner. The sophomore, who is competing for the starting cornerback spot opposite Devin Ross, recorded five tackles and three pass breakups.

    “”He’s playing better,”” Stoops said of Turner. “”Getting some good, quality depth and getting him in there competing for a job, that will really help us a lot.””

    In addition to Turner, the linebacking core generated a lot of buzz as it displayed its athletic ability and toughness.

    The three-headed monster of Sterling Lewis, Vuna Tuihalamaka and Xavier Kelley might be flying under the radar in March, but come September their names will more than likely appear on bulletin boards in locker rooms across the Pacific 10 Conference.

    “”I think they have great speed and great quickness,”” said UA head coach Mike Stoops. “”They’re an underrated group, but these guys are very complete players and (the three linebackers) can be as good as we’ve ever had.””

    With a week of spring practice remaining, the defense will continue to try and become a more cohesive group and give the offense aggressive looks to help them grow as a unit as well.

    “”We played hard, tackled every time, and tried not to give up too much and now we are just working on communication,”” said senior Cam Nelson. “”I feel like if we can communicate better, we can be a real good defense. We did a good job defensively, and we’re just trying to help the offense get better.””

    Quarterback situation remains unclear

    After the second scrimmage of the spring, sophomores Matt Scott and Nick Foles appear to be in a neck-and-neck race for the starting quarterback job. Both players received an equal number of snaps, and had their ups and downs.

    Scott started the scrimmage with the first team and seemed a little nervous. He was skittish in the pocket, but that could be due in large part to the struggles the offensive line had.

    The line struggles notwithstanding, there were several occasions where Scott neglected to go through his pre-snap reads and recognize a blitz off the edge from a linebacker or corner. This lead to coaches blowing the play dead before Scott completed his drop.

    Scott did show off some of the athleticism his coaches rave about. Several times he escaped a collapsing pocket, kept his eyes downfield and made accurate throws on the run.

    Foles, however, seemed to be more in tune with the offense.

    “”I felt more comfortable,”” Foles said. “”Every time I get out there I feel better.””

    The transfer from Michigan State displayed his strong arm and was in sync with his receivers, throwing several darts to good spots on his timing routes.

    Foles also provided the highlight of the day, escaping the defense’s rush and finding receiver Terrell Turner in the middle of the field for a 50-yard pass. Soon thereafter, he hit tight end Rob Gronkowski on a fade route for a touchdown.

    “”The thing that I’m looking for the most is who’s going to be able to establish themselves as the guy to lead the team,”” said offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes. “”From that standpoint, it was pretty good. We need to clean a lot of stuff up and they’re still learning, but we’re getting there.””

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