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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Competition heats up at fall camp

    One week into Arizona football’s fall camp, the competition for position on the depth chart is just heating up. But Saturday night in the team’s first scrimmage, projected starting running back Nic Grigsby may have done his fellow backs a favor.

    On the opening drive of the night, the sophomore came up swinging after being tackled by cornerback Devin Ross. The two players scuffled and Ross threw a strong right hand at Grigsby’s helmet before the two were separated.

    Head coach Mike Stoops immediately withdrew his running back from the game and sent Grigsby to run the steps of Arizona Stadium’s west bleachers.

    The end result of all the nonsense: extra looks for the Wildcats’ other young, talented backs.

    “”Obviously Nic (Grigsby) taking a shot at one of our players was disturbing and we’ll get that straightened out,”” Stoops said after the scrimmage. “”But overall I was really pleased with the play of a lot of our players.

    “”Some of our younger players were really exciting and special in a lot of different ways.””

    In Grigsby’s absence, new backfield additions Nick Booth and Keola Antolin shined in the spotlight.

    Both players began camp in the fourth and fifth spots respectively on the Wildcats’ depth chart, but after strong performances Saturday evening, the two should expect to be given more opportunities.

    Antolin got the most carries of any running back other than second string back Xavier Smith, and covered only one fewer yard than Smith despite two fewer carries. The freshman finished the night with 55 yards on nine carries in addition to hauling in three short-yardage passes.

    “”Keola (Antolin) is gonna be real nice for us,”” starting quarterback Willie Tuitama said. “”He’s quick, real low to the ground. He just runs really hard.””

    Also taking advantage of the unfortunate situation with Grigsby was Booth. The junior transfer from the College of DuPage in Naperville, Ill. shined with his combination of speed and power. Booth earned he most yardage of any Arizona running back on the night using his 6-foot-2-inch, 221-pound frame to hammer out 64 yards on seven carries.

    While Booth said the incident early in the night was “”unfortunate,”” he did admit he felt it gave him an opportunity to shine.

    Grigsby’s incident “”was a horrible situation and you never want to see that,”” Booth said. “”But it did create more opportunities for (running backs) and you have to take advantage of that situation.

    “”There were a couple things I could have done better, but overall I think I performed well.””

    Saturday night was not only a night for the running backs to show off their legs, as backup quarterback Matt Scott also gave glimpses of his dangerous speed.

    The freshman – fourth on the depth chart coming into fall camp – received a large portion of the snaps during the scrimmage and showed his ability to be a dual threat. Arizona’s coaching staff made it clear what they wanted to see out of Scott as he pulled the ball down to run on several designed plays.

    Scott finished the night 8-15 passing while also rushing for 25 yards on six carries. Due to his untouchable status as quarterback, however, he was unable to complete many of his rushing attempts.

    One of Scott’s strengths that could not be recorded in a statistic Saturday was his apparent confidence within the Arizona offense.

    “”We run the same style of offense that we ran in my high school so I’m feeling pretty comfortable in it,”” Scott said. “”I’m trying to figure everything out right now, get a few things corrected.

    “”But I felt pretty good tonight.””

    Defensively Arizona appeared steady, getting to the quarterback on multiple occasions and forcing a fumble from tight end Rob Gronkowski.

    Though early camp standout Robert Golden did not make much noise Saturday, he did see ample playing time on the second string defense.

    The impressive freshman is expected to add depth to a unit defensive coordinator Mark Stoops says should be a very deep group.

    “”We’re a little more athletic than we thought,”” Stoops said of his defense. “”I feel really good about the depth at our linebacker position – we haven’t had that in a little while.””

    “”Overall I like our energy and enthusiasm”” Stoops added, “”and I feel really good about (the defensive) guys.””

    Late Hits

    Four players were sidelined for Saturday’s scrimmage with injuries. Wide receiver Mike Thomas and offensive guard Eben Britton missed action due to a strained groin while H-back Brandon Lopez did not play after suffering a minor knee sprain during practice last week.

    Also missing from action was punter Keenyn Crier, who has missed all of fall camp thus far after undergoing surgery two weeks ago to remove a cyst on his back.

    While Thomas and Britton are expected to be back in practice this week, Lopez and Crier will remain inactive.

    Linebacker Ronnie Palmer was also added to the list of ailing Wildcats after suffering what appeared to be a hamstring injury during the scrimmage. He is expected to be back in practice this week.

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