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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Football readies for spring practice

Tyler Baker
Arizona running back Nick Wilson (28) carries the ball downfield at Arizona Stadium against NAU on Sept. 19, 2015. Wilson and the Wildcats begin spring practice Friday.

Return of the running game

Arizona had a three-headed beast at the running back position last season behind the efforts from Nick Wilson, Jared Baker and Orlando Bradford.

Wilson came off a historic season his freshman year, rushing for 1,375 yards, but a knee injury in 2015 kept Wilson from finding much consistency. Jared Baker is gone, which means Bradford will slide up the depth chart to the No. 2 spot behind Wilson.

Head coach Rich Rodriguez received a couple of running back prospects in the 2016 recruiting class, and one player to look forward to in the offseason is J.J. Taylor.

“He is probably one of the most dynamic players in Southern California,” Rodriguez said on National Signing Day. “I liked him on film. Everyone says that he is small—no he is short, he is not small, there is a difference. He is a well built, extremely competitive, makes a lot of plays, played at a high level at a very competitive program that won a whole lot of games.”

New year, new ‘D’

Not seeing Scooby Wright III run out of the tunnel and make plays at Arizona Stadium will be tough for Arizona fans, but first-year defensive coordinator Marcel Yates will kick up the defensive intensity. Yates hails from Boise State, where his 4-2-5 defensive scheme exposed the Wildcats in the 2014 Fiesta Bowl.

Without the All-American Wright, the focus will go even further into the secondary.

Cam Denson will switch to wide receiver, but DaVonte’ Neal, Sammy Morrison, Jace Whittaker and Jarvis McCall Jr. will return.

For the safeties, Tellas Jones and linebacker hybrid Paul Magloire Jr. returns, so the leadership in the secondary won’t be an issue, but how they respond to the newcomers hungry for playing time should be interesting.

The Wildcats signed six defensive backs including a trio of three-star safeties who are all over 6 feet tall, so Arizona should be getting longer and more athletic in the secondary.

“We’re looking for taller, rangier safeties,” Rodriguez said. “Those guys can grow into playing other positions and that’s the biggest thing for us is that we have to have the ability to have guys to have multiple position players.”

No spring game

Usually the entire buzz for Arizona football truly kicks in once the Wildcats have their annual spring game. It’s a chance to see the progression of Arizona and where they stand as a team.

Rodriguez allows a fan to call a play and it’s all fun and games for the spring game. However in order to focus on fundamentals and not getting injured, Arizona will no longer set up a spring game for the time being.

“We are not going to have a spring game; the reason is just because I really don’t want one. I would rather just teach them and coach them,” Rodriguez said. “A lot of spring will be nontraditional. We still have to teach and coach fundamentals and the scheme. We are trying to really focus on specific things and teach a new defense this spring as well.”

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