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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    “Thomas, Gronkowski to be ‘Tui’s’ favorite targets”

    Arizona pass catchers were under the microscope last season as they entered their first season in Sonny Dykes’ offensive system. After all the dust settled last year – although they put together a solid statistical season as a group – there wasn’t enough consistency for the team to reach the elusive guaranteed bowl eligibility plateau of seven wins.

    This season, those same players have turned into the biggest cog in Dykes’ version of the spread offense. Led by senior Mike Thomas and sophomore Rob Gronkowski, this year’s version of Arizona’s wide outs should put up even better numbers than last season.

    The biggest difference when comparing the preparedness off the receivers this upcoming season to last season is evident in the timing of their routes. Dykes said the first team is running very precisely and “”should be able to execute pretty well”” and thinks senior quarterback Willie Tuitama will have more than enough targets to spread the ball around.

    “”Just starting in the summer, you could just tell how much smoother the offense was working just because everyone knows what they’re supposed to do and how they’re supposed to do it,”” Tuitama said. “”We’re doing a good job of just getting ourselves in the right place and we’re doing great right now. Watch out for Terrell Turner, Terrell Reese and Delashaun Dean, too, I mean, those guys can play.””

    That trio of young receivers will be looking to follow in the footsteps of Thomas, who should put his name high up on the list of all-time Wildcat receivers. But there’s no way he or any of his fellow wideouts can get things going unless Tuitama can get the ball there, but Thomas said Tuitama is the “”pistol-starter of our offense”” and is poised to help the pass catchers eclipse last year’s production.

    Another factor in that is the expected increase of Gronkowski’s role in the offense. At 6-foot-6, 260 pounds, the sophomore is a formidable matchup on any area of the field. Particularly in the redzone.

    “”We’re completing a lot more balls, we’re playing faster and we’re learning our assignments, and since we all know our assignments, it’s making other people open,”” Gronkowski said. “”Everyone is going to get their fair share in the redzone if everyone’s just executing. Someone’s always going to be open down there.””

    Dykes even said Gronkowski could get close to catching 100 balls this year, although it’s highly doubtful he’ll reach that mark due to missing the first few weeks of the season with an illness. Nevertheless, Gronkowski will be a pivotal part in the Wildcats’ offensive attack and Dykes said “”he’s a big guy and we’re going to get him a bunch of balls down there.””

    Dykes knows how valuable Gronkowski’s combination of size and speed is to opening up the field, as does Thomas.

    “”He’s a freak, man. He’s just a freakish athlete,”” Thomas said. “”He’s big, he can run, he’s physical, he’s got all the attributes. He’s always a big plus in what we do. He’s one of the main prospects in our offense.””

    Dykes also knows what a positive it is to have a senior presence at a the pass catching position with Thomas, but even with the good mix of players, he’s far from satisfied with the unit’s overall performance. There’s always room to get better, and now that his players know most of the ins and outs of the playbook, their execution should be that much cleaner and faster, Dykes said.

    “”We’ve got to improve in those crucial situations that win and lose football games, third downs and in the redzone,”” Dykes said. “”Those have been tremendous focuses for us, and still areas that we have to improve in.””

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