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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Safety Flowers ready to bloom

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Gordon Gates
Gordon Bates / Arizona Daily Wildcat Arizona Wildcats Football practice at Rincon Vista on Monday, August 15th 2011.

After a season-long learning curve, the light bulb has finally come on for sophomore safety Marquis Flowers heading into his first career start as a Wildcat.

“I feel like I’m ready now,” Flowers said. “It was a humbling experience just coming in off of all the hype and then taking a back seat. I learned a lot though. This year I’m better, I’m more mature and I’m thankful for what happened last year.”

Flowers came to the UA last season as the Wildcats’ prized recruit. According to Rivals.com, he is the No. 1 high school player in Arizona, and a trip to the U.S. Army All-American game backed up that ranking. At 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, the Millennium High School standout looked the part of a collegiate stud.

But by week three against Iowa, Flowers found himself on the sideline, where outside of special teams duty, he would stay for the remainder of the season.

While Arizona tried him at both safety and nickelback, the transition from high school to college was too much to overcome for the freshman.

“You can’t compare high school to college. It’s such a different level of speed, size, strength,” said head coach Mike Stoops. “That makes it really difficult for even the best of them. Those guys can do anything in high school but there’s guys bigger, stronger and faster than them.

“You’ve got to learn the game a different way.”

Flowers had all the tools to become a starter and impact player for the Wildcats, but the game hadn’t clicked yet for him. Although he wouldn’t stand out among a crowd of NFL safeties, expectations were too great too soon for the Arizona native, and he finished the season with only 11 tackles, mostly all on special teams.

“He was only 18 coming in, but he looks like an NFL player so you kind of expect him to play the way he looks even though you’re not expecting that same thing from other players his age,” said secondary coach Ryan Walters. “I sometimes probably was a little hard on him, but you know, he needed it and he’s improving a lot.” According to Flowers, that learning curve is coming to an end. Stoops said it took Flowers all of last year and spring to get comfortable, but it’s starting to pay dividends.

“Marquis has played well. He gets better and better, and I think every time he steps on the field he’s going to get better,” Stoops said. “He’s become very comfortable in what he’s doing. He’s got big play ability.

“He’s a big rangy guy, can run and he likes to hit so I’m really pleased with his growth as a player and as a person. He’s really embraced that role and is starting to excel.”

Walters reiterated Stoops’ assessment and said he really saw the light bulb go on during the Wildcats’ second scrimmage of fall camp. According to Walters, Flowers was no longer thinking on the field but reacting on instincts.

“That’s what we need,” Walters said. “We need him to play fast and physical and he’s definitely capable of doing that and it’s starting to show up in practice.”

It might have come a year later than expected, but Flowers is out to prove that 2010 was nothing more than a learning experience.

“I just want to be physical, versatile; I want to be all that,” Flowers said. “I want to help my team out. I want to be vocal. I just want to give my teammates trust. I just want to go out there, play hard, play fast and everything will fall in place.”

Although Saturday marks the end of Flowers’ freshman-to-sophomore transition period, it’s the beginning of what is expected to be a long and successful career as a Wildcats safety.

“I expect him to have a breakout year,” Walters said. “The sky is the limit for Marquis.”

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