Dozen Down, Three to Go

April 6, 2010

TUCSON--The Arizona football team practices Wednesday morning, holds its annual Spring Game on Saturday, and will wrap up spring ball with a 15th practice next Monday to leave behind a solid month of work leading toward summer conditioning and a season opener five months distant.

Head coach Mike Stoops has discovered, as expected, that his offense is in good hands under co-coordinators Bill Bedenbaugh and Seth Littrell. Meantime, on the other side, jobs on defense may remain open but the competitors largely have been identified by new co-coordinators Tim Kish and Greg Brown.

Former players will be on hand this week for Football Alumni Weekend with a golf tourney on Friday and the key practice to view on Saturday, April 10.

Saturday's activities open with a Bear Down Barbecue on the McKale lawn at 11 a.m. featuring skill stations for kids, a photo booth, food vendors and an autograph session with such former Cats as five-time All-Pro Chicago Bears linebacker Lance Briggs, legendary place kicker Max Zendejas, All-Pro kick returner Michael Bates and others. The Spring Game kicks off at 1:30 p.m. in Arizona Stadium.

Linebackers coach Kish, who works with secondary coach Brown to coordinate the defense, said UA will emphasize matchup opportunities more this year, using nickel and dime packages to maximize the obvious -- putting swift players on the field.

One package, the 'Cheetah,' would potentially feature four defensive ends to go along with five or six defensive backs and one or two linebackers, depending on down and distance. 'We think we'll be able to apply more pressure with our fastest guys on the field,' he said.

The mixing and matching by Brown and Kish will continue through fall camp, Stoops said, with a number of guys playing well enough in spring ball to be able to factor in the system, still built around a base defense of the 4-3.

Arizona junior quarterbacks Nick Foles, Matt Scott and Bryson Beirne have flourished in spring under new position coach Frank Scelfo, who while sticking with the obvious pecking order has given each player opportunities to understand his emphasis on strong fundamentals.

The Cats threw the ball around in their last scrimmage, completing 30 of 36 pass attempts, while redshirt freshman running backs Daniel Jenkins and Kylan Butler threw their hats in the ring with some solid efforts. They'll complement returning vets in senor Nic Grigsby, junior Keola Antolin and sophomore Greg Nwoko to give Arizona a fine stable of ball carriers. Too, 250-pound back Taimi Tutogi, nominally the starting H-back, showed he can play at tailback, fullback or motion back and will be an additional force.

The Cats' receiving corps will be led by junior Juron Criner, seniors Delashaun Dean and Travis Cobb, and juniors David Douglas, David Roberts and Bug Wright, plus redshirt freshman Richard Morrison. Three-year letterman A.J. Simmons and redshirt freshman Jack Baucus man the tight end post.

In front of the quarterbacks, two 2009 second-team all-league picks in center Colin Baxter and tackle Adam Grant spearhead a line that could be the Cats' overall strongest unit.

UA's mid-year juco linebackers Paul Vassallo and Derek Earls have stepped up along with returning sophomore Jake Fischer and some others to make the departure of three starting LBs less of an issue, Kish said. Trevor Erno, R.J. Young and C.J. Parish also have pushed well during spring.

Returning lettermen Trevin Wade, Robert Golden, Joe Perkins, Anthony Wilcox, Marcus Benjamin, Adam Hall, Lyle Brown and Mike Turner should log key time in the secondary. Cornerback Wade, one of the guys who can play some nickel, was a second-team All-Pac-10 pick last year.

Senior defensive ends Brooks Reed and Ricky Elmore will man the edges up front on defense, with lettermen D'Aundre Reed and Apai Tuihalamaka battling for roles. Senior tackle Lolomana Mikaele leads a deep group inside.

Patrons will have the opportunity to renew or purchase season football tickets at the Barbecue or Stadium on Saturday. The renewal deadline is May 3.

Arizona opens the season Friday, Sept. 3, in a tilt at Toledo to be televised on ESPN at 8 p.m. EDT (5 p.m. MST/PDT), then opens its home season Sept. 11 versus The Citadel. The rest of the attractive home schedule includes Iowa, California, Oregon State, Washington, USC and ASU.

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