Arizona Spring Football Ends Thursday With Spirited Practice
April 24, 2003
TUCSON, Ariz. - Spring Football Notes...
... The University of Arizona football team practiced in shorts and shoulder pads Thursday evening, as the Wildcats closed their 15th and final spring session under the lights at Arizona Stadium... For the last time this spring, head coach John Mackovic and the Wildcat assistant coaches put the players through the paces for a rigorous and spirited practice... The Wildcats did situational work with full lines for the majority of today's final session...
Following today's practice, Mackovic explained that he is pleased with the way the players worked throughout this year's edition of spring drills. 'We had a great spring, and we didn't have very many injuries. We spent a lot of time in situations so the players could experience game action. It was a lot of fun. We learned a lot about who can make plays, and we have to use the spring as a foundation to build upon for the upcoming season,' he said...
At the end of practice, Mackovic handed out team awards for outstanding effort during spring drills... Offensive tackle Chris Johnson and strong safety Lamon Means were named the team's most improved players, while walk-on tight end Clarence McRae and redshirt freshman defensive end Paul Philipp each received outstanding newcomer accolades...
Earlier in the day, Mackovic met with local members of the media to share his thoughts on the team's progress over the last four weeks... Here is what he had to say...
ARIZONA HEAD COACH JOHN MACKOVIC'S CLOSING SPRING REMARKS
General comments on this year's edition of spring football:
'It has been a real nice spring. I have enjoyed the players and coaches. The coaches have a lot of energy, they work hard on the field, and they are very active, and I have enjoyed watching that. I believe that the players have enjoyed the new coaches, and they like the way the coaches get after them. The players crave performance, and discipline is part of improved performance. The players want to play better and have success.'
'From where we started to where we are, we are comfortable, but I know that we are not satisfied and not ready to go and start the season right away. We definitely will need the training camp to be able to assist us in preparing for the regular season.'
Spring goals for the defense:
'Here are the things we set out to do in the spring. First, we had to install our defense and arrange our personnel. We have done a better job of installing the defense than we did two years ago when a lot of people knew what we were doing. Mike Hankwitz is well organized, and he came with a plan for the defense. The addition of Craig Bray, who also comes with a lot of experience as a coordinator, made an impression on how we put it together because he could easily understand where Hankwitz was coming from. That transition as far as installing our defense went smoothly. We have fronts, stunts, blitzes, nickel coverages, dime coverages and packages, which is far more than someone might anticipate. That was an excellent part of the spring.'
'We didn't really re-arrange too many people (on defense). Joe Siofele went to the middle linebacker spot. His weight is probably at the spot where he should be playing another position. He is going to have to trim down in order to play that spot in the fall effectively. The thing that pleased me with the group was that the defensive ends like Marcus Smith and Copeland Bryan who became outside linebackers stood up and moved in there nicely. Marcus Smith was excellent, and Copeland Bryan was not too far behind. I really felt good about what those guys were able to do.'
'The other thing about the defense was developing a personality. We had to establish our rough, rugged, hard-nosed personality, and that comes with a lot of discipline and a lot of overlapping in pursuit and gang tackling. We made good strides along that line. We're not there yet, but I think that everyone can look at where we were and where we are now and be comfortable that we moved ahead.'
Spring goals for the offense:
'On offense, we had to concentrate on getting our running game put back together. We have five basic key run plays, four of which we were able to focus on during the spring. We spent a lot of time with our power offense. We had good, hard, physical football, and it was good for our offense, and it was good for our defense. We made a lot of strides there, and we improved our power running attack.'
'We also had to concentrate on getting our quarterbacks trained so they could run the offense. In that regard, we've had good days and bad days. It has been a matter of taking one step forward and one step back. Where we are is hard to say. The good thing is that as we have gone through things, the quarterbacks have developed a feel for many of the plays and many of the passing game things that we are doing. That part of it is beneficial for them. We have done many strategy situations, and that is good for them because it is like playing in a game. That part of it is coming along.'
Spring goals for special teams:
'The third thing was that we wanted to hit all of our special teams this spring so that we made sure we got them as much time as we needed. We focused on the punt team, and we wanted Jay Boulware to have a chance to layout his plan for all the groups. And, we wanted our kickers to kick under pressure, which we didn't do as much last year. Mike Hankwitz has been coaching punters for about 19 years, so he is handling the punters. I'm handling the kickers as much as anybody. We have all of our coaches helping with the special teams in different areas.'
On quarterbacks Nic Costa and Ryan O'Hara:
'They are neck-in-neck. The good thing these guys have done is that they have both made some plays. We know when we go into a season with young quarterbacks that they likely are going to do some things that aren't perfect. But, if they can make up for it and make some plays happen, they will grow with what they are doing. We ask them to do a lot because we have to find out how much they can do. We are teaching them not on the blackboard as much as out on the field.'
On the offensive line:
'The offensive line has come along nicely this spring. We didn't have anybody out, and every guy was able to go every day, which was critical. Brandon Phillips really had an outstanding spring. Chris Johnson is our most improved offensive player at left tackle. Chris and Brandon at the two tackles have really given us solid play there. We feel that we can go with those two and build around them.'
'They worked a lot on pass protection and run blocking. Mike Deal had a bunch of neat ideas on pass protection, and we made some good strides in blitz pickup. We also focused on our quarterbacks staying in the pocket. We worked on keeping the front of the pocket more stable and keeping the pocket firm in the middle. We've done a good job and made a lot of improvement in that area.'
On the tight ends:
'We didn't get a lot of tight end work with Steve Fleming, but Matt Padron got a lot of work, and that's where (Clarence) McRae really had a chance to step up.'
On the wide receivers:
'The wide receiver corps is led by Andrae Thurman, Lance Relford and Biren Ealy, who played like a veteran this spring. Mike Jefferson is a bright, young prospect, and Ricky Williams did as much for us this spring as anybody. He caught more balls than anyone, caught touchdowns, and he just seemed to be in the right place at the right time.'
On the running backs:
'It is disappointing that Gainus Scott missed so much time because he is someone that we wanted to get the ball to and get a good chance to evaluate him. Hopefully, he will get back in the fall. Mike Bell, Gilbert Harris and Beau Carr were the three guys who carried the workload, and those three guys were in there everyday. They pounded away, and they took their hits. It was good for them, and they learned to do a lot of things for us.'
On the linebackers:
'I have enjoyed watching our defense. The outside linebacker corps with Copeland Bryan, Andre Torrey, Marcus Smith and Matt Molina, who is a really good veteran at that position, is a solid group that is going to play well and give us good play.'
'The inside linebacker crew is led by Joe Siofele. We want him to lose some weight so that he can be a more effective player there. Pat Howard was doing really well, but we pulled him early so we could fix his shoulder. He is going to be back, and he should be fine. Akin Akinniyi and John McKinney are two young freshmen that have shown that they will run to the ball and fly around. Kirk Johnson is a little undersized for the inside, but he is improving as far as his balance and getting to where he needs to be.'
On the defensive tackles:
'Vince Feula and Carl Tuitavuki have shown power in the middle. Those guys in there are giving us some powerful play. Carlos Williams, David Sharp, Brad Brittain and Paul Philipp are going to be a good mix-and-match group.'
On the secondary:
'At the safeties, Darrell Brooks hasn't had the opportunity to practice, but we do expect him to be a factor at one of the two safety spots. Clay Hardt has done very well. Justin Jochum is not going to be back with us. He is an engineering student, and he is going to accept his academic scholarship and get his degree. Tony Wingate has done a nice job as a strong safety, and Gary Shepard has been one of the big surprises this spring. He is a hitter, and he is one of the fastest players on the defense. At cornerback, Gary Love and Michael Jolivette have been the two guys who have handled the first assignments. Luis Nunez has had a nice spring, and Zeonte Sherman and Jason Martin are also coming along nicely.'
On the specialists:
'Bobby Gill is going to start at kicker, and Nick Folk is going to be the backup. Either Nick Folk or Ryan Slack is going to be the kick-off man. We are going to start out punting by using the bullpen method as we used last year with Danny (Baugher) and James (Molina). Joe Siofele and Steve Fleming are our long snappers for the punt team, and Siofele and Keoki Fraser are the snappers for the PAT/field goal units. Right now, our two best holders are the two punters, Danny Baugher and James Molina.'
On the individual spring awards:
'The most improved offensive player is Chris Johnson at left tackle. The outstanding newcomer on offense is Clarence McRae. He is a non-scholarship tight end who came from Arizona Western, and he really showed some good things. If he continues to develop, he has a really good chance to help us next year. On defense, the most improved player is Lamon Means at strong safety, and our outstanding newcomer is Paul Philipp at defensive end.'
On junior quarterback John Rattay:
'Unfortunately, John Rattay hurt his knee again. He was cleared last week to play, and he played a lot on Thursday and Friday in the scrimmage. He re-injured his knee, and he likely will need surgery again. But, if there is any way he can get back, he will because John is that kind of guy.'
On defensive end Fata Avegalio:
'Fata Avegalio is going to go on a medical scholarship. He is not going to play anymore, and yet he is out there and coaching everyday. He is welcome to be a student assistant with us, and I hope he wants to do it next year.'
On Arizona's goals for the 2003 season:
'Our quarterback play has to be consistent. Week in and week out, we have to get representative play from the quarterback position. We have to be smart and conscious that we do things the right way. We are willing to alter our style of play if we have to in order to win.'
'We have to play better defense in order to have a good team. Our focus has been that way all throughout the spring. I am pleased that we switched defenses because I don't believe that our previous defense matched up as well with the offenses that we are playing in the West. Our run defense was less than desirable last year. Last year, teams generally ran on us after they had broken our spirit throwing the ball. That is going to be harder to do against this kind of defense.'
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