2003 Arizona Football Spring Prospectus
April 4, 2003
|Date||Opponent||Site - Time|
|Aug. 30||UTEP||Tucson - 7 p.m.|
|Sept. 6||LSU||Tucson - 7 p.m.|
|Sept. 13||Oregon||Tucson - 7 p.m.|
|Sept. 20||at Purdue||West Lafayette - 1 p.m. CDT|
|Sept. 27||Texas Christian||Tucson - 7 p.m.|
|Oct. 4||at Washington State||Pullman - 2 p.m. PDT|
|Oct. 11||UCLA||Tucson - 4 p.m.|
|Oct. 18||open date|
|Oct. 25||at California||Berkeley - 2 p.m. PDT|
|Nov. 1||at Oregon St.||Corvallis - 1 p.m. PST|
|Nov. 8||Washington#||Tucson - 4 p.m.|
|Nov. 15||Southern California||Tucson - 4 p.m.|
|Nov. 22||open date|
|Nov. 28||at Arizona State||Tempe - TBA|
Arizona Football Quick Facts
2002 Record: 4-8
Pac-10 Record: 1-7, ninth place tie
Home/Road Records: 3-4, 1-4
National Rankings: -
National Honors: QB Jason Johnson, Woody Hayes National Scholar-Athlete Award, AFCA Good Works Team, East-West Shrine Game, Verizon Academic All-District VII.
Pac-10 Honors: LB Lance Briggs, 1st-team defense; LB Ray Wells, 1st-team specialty player, WR Bobby Wade, 1st-team offense and 2nd-team punt returner. Honorable Mention All-Pac-10: QB Jason Johnson, DT Young Thompson, CB Darrell Brooks, FS Jarvie Worcester, TE James Hugo. QB Jason Johnson, 1st-team All-Academic offense; LB/LS Ben DalMolin, 1st-team All-Academic defense; CB Darrell Brooks, 2nd-team All-Academic defense; Honorable Mention All-Academic: QB Nic Costa, WR Gens Goodman, PK Sean Keel. Players of the Week: CB Michael Jolivette (ST vs. NAU), QB Jason Johnson (offense vs. California).
Offensive Starters Returning (7): WR Andrae Thurman, 6-0, 185, Sr.; OT Brandon Phillips, 6-8, 330, Sr.; C Keoki Fraser, 6-3, 300, Jr.; OG Reggie Sampay, 6-3, 290, Sr.; OG Kili Lefotu, 605, 302, So.; OT Chris Johnson, 6-3, 295, Jr.; HB Clarence Farmer (2001), 6-0, 224, Sr.; also: HB Mike Bell (6-0, 210, So., 5 starts) and fullback rotation (Sean Jones, 65-11, 230, So; Gilbert Harris, 6-1, 215, So.).
Defensive Starters Returning (6): DE Fata Avegalio, 6-3, 255, Jr.; LB Joe Siofele, 6-2, 260, Sr.; DT Carlos Williams, 6-4, 291, Jr.; SS Clay Hardt, 6-2, 200, Sr.; DB Darrell Brooks, 6-0, 191, So.; CB/NB Gary Love (7 starts), 5-10, 180, Sr.
Specialists Returning (7): PK Bobby Gill, 5-11, 190, Sr.; P Danny Baugher, 5-10, 185, So.; KO Ryan Slack, 6-1, 195, Jr.; LS Ben DalMolin, 6-0, 210, Jr.; SS Joe Siofele, 6-2, 260, Sr.; KOR Gary Love, Andrae Thurman.
Returning Lettermen: 46 (21 offense, 21 defense, four specialty)
Lettermen Lost: 19 (9 offense, 7 defense, 2 kicker)
Offensive Style: Multiple Pro
Defensive Alignment: 3-4
Arizona Coaching Staff
Head Coach: John Mackovic (Wake Forest '65), 3rd year at Arizona (9-14), 16th year as a collegiate head coach: (94-78-3, .546).
Assistants: Mike Deal (Indiana '70), offensive coordinator/OL, 1st year. Mike Hankwitz (Michigan '70), defensive coordinator, outside linebackers, 1st year. Steve Bernstein (Occidental College '67), DB, 3rd year. Mike Borich (Western Illinois '89), wide receivers, 1st year. Jay Boulware (Texas '96), special teams coordinator/RB, 3rd year. Craig Bray (UNLV '75), inside linebackers, 1st year. Charlie Dickey (Arizona '85), TE, 12th year. Jeff Hecklinski (Western Illinois '97), quarterbacks, 1st year. Marty Long (The Citadel '87), DT, 8th year. Dan Berezowitz (Wisconsin-Whitewater '94), director of football operations, recruiting, 3rd year. Graduate assistants - to be named.
Head Coach John Mackovic
John Mackovic (Wake Forest '65) completed his second year at Arizona (4-8) with a cumulative 9-14 record, and his 15th season overall as a collegiate head coach (94-78-3). Mackovic had a hand in the Pac-10 finishing 30-10 in non-conference games for the year, notching a 3-1 mark. After the 3-1 start this year, UA suffered the most conference losses in a single UA season, 1-7.
On the way in 2002, Arizona set records or placed team or individuals in the UA top 10 in nearly 50 different offensive single-season and career categories. Despite injuries that caused key players to miss a bunch of games (and full seasons), the Cats had some punch in 2002 - and took some punches.
On the student side of athlete, Mackovic's charges performed admirably, with a second consecutive selection to the American Football Coaches Association Good Works Team (Jason Johnson) and six players (including two first-team picks) earning citations on the Pac-10's All-Academic team. Mackovic continued to provide an open-access program and professional courtesy toward the media throughout 2002, despite some well-chronicled off-the-field adversity.
Arizona's 26th head coach, Mackovic has more than three decades of established leadership in the game as a head coach, athletics director, offensive coordinator or assistant, and a few years outside the game as a football TV analyst.
Off-the-field distractions played a role late in Arizona's 2002 season and one focal week in November received national publicity after some Arizona players met not-so-secretly with the University president to voice concerns. The coach publicly accepted responsibility for the team's internal difficulties the next day, then induced the team to step forward and get on with it - and the club went out and played its best game of the year a few days later. The coach was lifted upon the shoulders of two young players at game's end. It wasn't enough to make 2002 a critical success, but it revealed an Arizona team capable of successful Pac-10 football.
As the District 9 representative on the Board of Trustees of the American Football Coaches Association, Mackovic, 59, has a voice heard nationally. His focus on the total student-athlete has been underscored by nine national academic/citizenship honor winners during his collegiate career. Arizona recorded a program-high four first-team Academic All-Pac-10 selections in 2001 and two more in 2002.
Mackovic's reputation for the passing game was evident in 2002. UA set a slew of passing and offensive records, including a record 492-yard day at California, plus posted three other 400+ games. In his two short years, UA has put up half of its top 10 passing-game marks. The Cats scored the most points in a single (regulation) game than it had in 19 seasons, hitting for 52 at California in the game that snapped a six-game Pac-10 losing streak. The Cats have exceeded 400 yards in total offense 10 times in Mackovic's two years.
The recruiting success in his initial year in Tucson provided Arizona some young talent that the program had to count on during a 2002 year marred by injuries. Five of six junior college players signed for 2002 played and the sixth was a projected starter unable to compete due to injury. Among a scholarship freshman class of 21 that reported in August, 11 played, including starts by a punter, three offensive linemen, a couple of running backs, a linebacker and defensive back.
Mackovic's first year in Tucson in 2001 opened with the team snapping a program five-game losing streak, and opened the year 3-0 to complete only the third perfect non-conference campaign in the past 11 seasons. The 3-0 start was the best for a first-year UA head coach 1973.
Mackovic's first Arizona team unveiled a sophisticated offensive attack that produced a 2,000-yard passer, a 1,000-yard rusher and a near 1,000-yard receiver, and in 2002 the program moved forward in a similar direction predicated on the passing game. Jason Johnson reached the 3,000-yard passing level while wide receiver Bobby Wade crossed the 1,000-yard mark and receiver Andrae Thurman was close with 915 yards. Wade and Thurman combined for a school duo-record 154 receptions.
Mackovic is the first UA coach to win his first two season openers since Jim Young in 1973 and 1974, when Mackovic was the offensive coordinator in Tucson. He is six victories shy of the 100-victory career level.
Mackovic on Top
Coaching changes in the Pacific-10 Conference during the offseason have left Arizona's John Mackovic with the most collegiate career victories among all 10 coaches. At 94-78-3 in 15 years of head coaching, he leads Oregon's Mike Bellotti (90-54-2, 13 years), Washington's Rick Neuheisel (63-31, 8 years), Arizona State's Dirk Koetter (38-24, 5 years), USC's Pete Carroll (17-6, 2 years) and first-year Pac-10 coaches Jeff Tedford of California (7-5) and Buddy Teevens of Stanford (2-9). Bill Doba of Washington State and Karl Dorrell of UCLA join the fraternity this season. The dean of Pac-10 coaches is Bellotti with an eight-year tenure in Eugene. Neuheisel is next with four years in Seattle.
Coaching Staff Reorganization
Arizona's team chemistry changes immediately, as the squad commenced spring ball with five new coaches - both coordinators, a quarterbacks coach, receivers coach and inside linebackers coach. Head coach John Mackovic, secondary coach Steve Bernstein, running backs coach Jay Boulware, defensive line coach Marty Long and tight ends coach Charlie Dickey return. Among the new staff members, offensive coordinator Mike Deal will coach the offensive line, defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz will work with outside linebackers, Jeff Hecklinski will coach quarterbacks, Mike Borich will coach wide receivers, and Craig Bray joins the staff to coach inside linebackers. Arizona will depart from the flex defense and use multiple schemes out of a base 3-4 defense. Boulware is set to coordinate special teams, while operations director Dan Berezowitz will assume recruiting coordinator duties.
The New Defense
Arizona switches from the Double-Eagle Flex to a 3-4 defense this year, ending an era in which the Cats used the flex since 1992. New defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz used the 3-4 most recently while coordinator for the past six years at Texas A&M. Early spring practice returns have shown that players are eager to adopt the new style. With Hankwitz and new inside linebackers coach Craig Bray - himself a coordinator at Oregon State for the past three years - UA not only gets a new scheme but some fresh innovation from some experienced leaders.
Home Sweet Home?
Since October 2000, Arizona has lost 11 consecutive Pac-10 home games, vs. a 3-8 road mark in the same span. Overall, Arizona will have to win its 2003 season opener to avoid tying the home-game losing streak of five games set by the 1957 and 1966 Arizona teams.
Strength of Schedule
If you beat Pac-10 opponents, you're likely to get to a bowl game. Arizona played eight games against teams in 2002-03 bowl games - Washington State, Washington, Arizona State, Wisconsin, North Texas, UCLA, Oregon and Oregon State. North Texas (8-5) was eventual Sun Belt champion. WSU (10-3) shared the Pac-10 crown with Southern California (11-2), UA's 2002 Pac-10 'miss.' Arizona opponents played to an 83-62 (.572) regular-season record in 2002. Aside from WSU and USC (both 7-1), and Arizona and Stanford (both 1-7), the rest of the league finished within two games of each other in the standings, including a four-way tie for fourth place. Arizona's 2003 schedule includes 10 games against 2002 bowl teams, including LSU, Purdue and Texas Christian, three of the four non-conference opponents. Six of UA's home games will be against 2002 bowl teams.
The Passing Game
Arizona's offensive output was 87 percent via the pass in 2002 - 3477 yards of 4003 total. The Cats tried to run the ball, using rushing plays on 360 attempts and throwing the ball 430 times. The passing game clicked and restoring the production without an experienced quarterback will be a primary task in 2003. UA enjoyed a school-record 289.8 passing yards per game, besting the previous high by more than 30 yards per contest. Quarterback Jason Johnson set season records in nearly every category, plus he and receiver Bobby Wade re-wrote some career marks. Still, 17 passing touchdowns and seven rushing touchdowns didn't get the job done. The Cats had a couple of contests in which eventual total offense was all by passing - vs. Washington State, at Oregon State and at California (-17, -23 and -5 net rushing yards, respectively). Oregon State saddled UA with its worst-ever total offense figure in Pac-10 play, 93 net yards. Twenty-two percent of Arizona's 58 plays ended in minus yardage (13 Beaver tackles for loss). All eight losses came when Arizona had fewer rushing yards than opponents.
The Running Game
Entering 2002 Arizona returned the league's top rusher, Clarence Farmer, and a stable of backs. Nearly all of them missed games because of injury, including Farmer out for the final eight (knee). Initial starting fullback Joey Willrodt - who earned the nod and a scholarship with a fine camp - missed seven games. The next fullback, Sean Jones, missed five games. Redshirt freshman halfback Mike Bell overcame turf toe to play all year, but was not at his best, and fellow redshirt frosh halfback Gainus Scott missed five games. Ultimately, true freshmen Beau Carr at halfback and Gilbert Harris at fullback learned the ropes. Bell managed to lead the club with 341 rushing yards, thanks to a 70-yard game on 12 carries (5.8 ypc) in the finale to edge out Farmer, who gained 309 in his four outings to open the year. Carr (126 net), Scott (68) and Harris (56) checked in next. Tackles for losses dumped 628 yards from UA's gross of 1,154 and the Cats ended up with 526 net yards rushing for the year. It shouldn't be too hard to improve in 2003, with a reasonably deep line and plenty of candidates to tote the ball.
Some Spring Practice Position Questions
QB -- How will the new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach affect the development? Who's the top guy? How much of a riddle will carry over to fall camp? Will equal work in spring for Nic Costa and Ryan O'Hara give UA a lefty-righty option for 2003? Can Mackovic do what he did with Jason Johnson - get a guy clicking his first year in the role?
HB -- Can Clarence Farmer wrest the role which saw him gain 1229 yards and earn first-team All-Pac-10 honors in 2001 back from a stable of young players? (Mike Bell, Gainus Scott, Beau Carr, etc.) How will Arizona find whatever it takes to bring the rushing game back from its low-water mark (44 ypg) last year?
FB -- Arizona in 2002 found that its Texas kiddie korps (Sean Jones, Gilbert Harris, Beau Carr) was a versatile group of guys who could play either spot in the backfield and were rugged enough for the inside action. Who's the best receiving back among them? Who best fits the bill to help along a young QB?
TE -- Junior letterman Steve Fleming is likely to miss most of spring ball with a knee rehab, so lone scholarship holder Matt Padron, a redshirt freshman, gets a default dose of high scrutiny. Coaches liked him from the get-go last year but had some depth in the upper classes. Can one guy do it all in spring ball (Padron thinks so), or might UA dig into some wealth elsewhere to re-claim some earlier converts?
WR -- Bobby Wade's gone. Andrae Thurman's back. They combined for the best one-two punch in school history (93+61 catches, 2304 total yards). Will senior Lance Relford and the young guys bring something to the table to complement Thurman's 915 receiving yards? Who among those two and Biren Ealy, Mike Jefferson, Juan Valentine and Ricky Williams will emerge as the UA's basic three-man rotation?
OL -- Can UA get the kind of work it needs in spring ball with only nine offensive linemen on the spring roster? Considering seven have game experience and an eighth is a redshirt freshman with laudable skills, it's probable. The Cats should have a solid core group come August but maybe need some more bodies. Can this nucleus remain injury free in March and April? It would help.
OLB -- How quickly will UA coaches match personnel with the program's new 3-4 alignment? How many of the former defensive ends in the program are swift enough to step back a yard? Does Joe Siofele play here, or inside? Is Andre Torrey healthy? The junior college transfer missed 2002 with a hip problem, and it hurt UA's edge rush. Coaches liked youngsters Copeland Bryan and Marcus Smith as ends when the flex was in vogue, but now it's a different thing, and UA needs spring ball to get this position going.
DT -- Few teams have as many interior defenders as they want. UA is no different. A mid-year junior college transfer gives the Cats half a dozen candidates (five lettermen) for the front in spring ball. UA will use a nose guard and two ends. Rushing defense and an interior pass rush were problems last year. Can the Wildcats be stronger up front than they were in 2002? Can mid-year enrollee David Sharp help? Who's the guy for the middle?
ILB -- Lance Briggs, a 100-tackles per year guy and three-time All-Pac-10 inside linebacker, is gone. So is sidekick Ray Wells. And a promising sophomore left on a Mormon Mission. What happens in spring at this spot with new personnel? The answer could be one key to what Arizona's defense will be all about in 2003. Will Joe Siofele stick inside? Pat Howard, John McKinney, Akin Akinniyi and Kirk Johnson figure to be in this group. Howard and Johnson have some experience.
CB -- Can senior Gary Love and youngster Jason Martin anchor the corners? Michael Jolivette may not be ready in spring ball after missing most of 2002 with a knee injury. The Cats' pass defense was decent in 2002, and young or relatively newer cover people contributed much toward the effort. The Cats need a few men to push hard... Will it be Luis Nunez, Zeonte Sherman, Gary Shepard?
S -- Who takes over at free safety for three-year starter Jarvie Worcester? Will it be Darrell Brooks, or will he stay at corner? Sophomore talent Lamon Means? Can senior strong safety Clay Hardt fend off expected charges by sophomore Lamon Means and others? Arizona played more coverages in 2002 than it had in some recent years... What's the 2003 trend?
K -- Will sophomore Danny Baugher relax and find the 43-yard punting groove in college that had elevated him to All-America prep status? Can UA find some depth here during spring? Will redshirt freshman Nick Folk push senior Bobby Gill for the PK job? Three goals: consistency, consistency, consistency.
ST -- Can a fresh approach by a new coordinator make a difference in the kicking game? UA made some big plays but gave up some big plays across the special-teams spectrum in 2002, and needs to settle down in this area. Can some playmakers and consistency evolve?
C -- Coaching. Mackovic did a great job of putting together an experienced staff after some key departures. There's some new energy and ideas in the meeting rooms. 'We helped ourselves,' the head guy said after putting the last piece of the staff puzzle in place. 'C' also equals chemistry, which should be vastly improved on both the staff and among teammates.
Football Positions In Brief
Quarterbacks - Coach Jeff Hecklinski
Who's the top quarterback? Good question. There are plenty of bodies. All of them get to work with their position coach for the first time March 8. Arizona's top priority on the offensive side of the ball in spring practice will be to work with some youngsters and determine who's capable of digesting the mental part of UA's offensive attack. Departed Jason Johnson proved it quickly in his first spring under John Mackovic in 2001. The Cats have some solid talent in sophomore Nic Costa and redshirt freshman Ryan O'Hara. Costa played enough last year to prove he's capable - and to prove a pro-style offense doesn't come automatically even to a skilled athlete. O'Hara was seen as an heir-apparent type since his arrival, and now will get the reps to reveal if he's the real deal. The fall newcomers at QB bring outstanding credentials and will get a crash course early to see if either has the verve to step in as a true freshman - something Mackovic doesn't rule out. No matter who emerges, Arizona will have a young quarterback. Costa has some experience, but no one else does. Current juco walk-on - but former UA scholarship letterman - John Rattay returns but will miss spring while rehabilitating a knee injury. The Cats also have redshirt freshman walk-on Adam Austin, who was good enough to travel as the emergency quarterback toward the end of last season, and sophomore transfer Matt Belshe, a well respected 2001 prep recruit who sat out last year and should be recovered from September knee surgery.
Running Backs - Coach Jay Boulware
On paper the Wildcats bring back a half-dozen players who coaches are confident can contribute to an improved running game in 2003. Of note is 2001 All-Pac-10 halfback Clarence Farmer, who missed the final eight games last season and returns to spring ball as questionable. In his big year he gained 1,229 yards at 5.5 per carry. A career total of 2,204 yards in some 22 games as the featured back shows he's a capable back. In 2002 good things were seen from the freshmen who took over - Mike Bell, Gainus Scott, Beau Carr, Sean Jones and Gilbert Harris - so Arizona will have some options and a good group. New offensive coordinator Mike Deal's work in the running game should help pinpoint the key guys or the blend that best gives Arizona a chance to fix its rushing attack. Less than 20 yards rushing per game in league action won't work, and no one knows that better than John Mackovic - despite his love for the passing game. This offensive unit has more Lone Star flavor than any on Arizona's roster. UA coaches have had good success finding guys in Texas who can play Pac-10 football, and they keep going back.
Offensive Line - Coach Mike Deal
Arizona gets an infusion of help here, with the hiring of offensive coordinator Mike Deal and his deep experience working with offensive fronts - and with Mackovic at Illinois and Texas. Long-time UA coach Charlie Dickey branches out to the edge to work with tight ends, in a move that also should bolster the cohesiveness in the line. Deal talks about his recent NFL Europe stint with a quick appreciation for the hunger the players exhibited for the game, and it's easy to sense his ability to impart that to a younger group. The Wildcats are possibly a bit thin in the ranks here, but have eight players who have started including vets and some young size. Injury played a role in some of Arizona's trouble on the line in 2002, but also afforded opportunities for rookies like Tanner Bell, John Parada and Kili Lefotu to get meaningful playing time. (All three missed time with injuries, too.) Senior tackle Brandon Phillips, senior swingman Reggie Sampay, junior center Keoki Fraser and junior tackle Chris Johnson bring veteran credentials while the aforementioned trio and redshirt freshman Keith Jackson clearly all figure to contend for starting roles. In a perfect world a team would enjoy spring ball three-deep at the five spots across the front, but UA will use the extra reps and competition for the major roles as a positive. Phillips' development after an early career switch from a 6-6, 270-pound freshman defensive tackle has been a nice story. At 6-foot-8 and 330 pounds, he has the body to get things done at right tackle. Fraser took over the center job as a redshirt freshman and continues to improve. Sampay is up near the 300-pound level and has started 24 games since his true freshman season - 12 at left guard, eight at center and four at right guard. The haul from the 2002 recruiting that netted Parada, Lefotu, Bell and Jackson looks to be a key in the immediate and future success of Wildcat football. They're big and talented. Depth in spring might be one thing, but UA should have a solid nucleus of players for a charge in August. Four rookie recruits arriving in fall will have to be special players to break into the rotation. They are big enough.
Tight Ends - Coach Charlie Dickey
Arizona recruited two tight ends for 2003, junior college players expected to bolster the corps - a necessity, in fact. Only one scholarship tight end will be at full strength in spring ball. The new guys won't get here until August, so redshirt freshman Matt Padron will cut some serious teeth in spring practice. Junior Steve Fleming underwent off-season shoulder surgery and will be limited. Two earlier TE recruits, Carlos Williams (2000) and Javier Martinez (2001), are playing defense. So, tight ends coach Charlie Dickey gets to open his first stint at the position with a few questions and plenty of pylons - and plenty of time to work with Padron and a few non-scholarship players. There could be some moves, at least to help depth in spring ball. Last year tight ends caught 17 passes for 224 yards and three scores, plus were a big part of UA's pass protection. Expect considerable involvement in the running game from the position, but Mackovic likes to throw it to the big guys, too. The incoming fall recruits had some good numbers in juco ball and should get chances.
Wide Receivers - Coach Mike Borich
Sixteen percent (15) of the players on Arizona's spring roster are wide receivers, but the core of six lettermen clearly is the group that will catch balls in 2003. It's a talented bunch and will get some key additions in the fall when two or three of UA's top offensive recruits take a crack at the rotation. Senior Andrae Thurman is No. 8 on Arizona's career receiving chart with 105 and was a superb complement to Bobby Wade a year ago, catching 61 passes for 915 yards. Senior Lance Relford (20-289) is likely to earn regular status, but UA will afford opportunities to youngsters Biren Ealy and Mike Jefferson, plus Juan Valentine and Ricky Williams. UA used plenty of three-wide formations and moved the ball around, thowing it about 36 times per game last year. That was with a polished quarterback and some come-from-behind situations, but still within reason for a Mackovic system. No question one or two guys will have to step up and find ways to put a threat into the package that Wade (and his 93 catches) posed last year, but coaches like the group. One of the fall newcomers, Marcus Thomas, wants a crack at it - enough to leave a 5,000-yard career as a prep running back behind him. Fellow rookies Anthony Johnson and Syndric Steptoe are multi-sport athletes with bright prospects.
Inside Linebackers - Coach Craig Bray
The last time a player other than a middle linebacker led Arizona in tackles was in 1991 when UA played 19 freshmen (and one of them, free safety Tony Bouie, had 86). Since then, UA has known who its main man would be each year - Brant Boyer, Sean Harris, Charlie Camp, Chester Burnett, Marcus Bell, Lance Briggs - guys who would later play on Sundays. Some of those guys were young when they got it going, and Arizona will have to pull it off again in 2003 unless former whip/end Joe Siofele makes a smooth transition to Mike linebacker. Two-year lettermen Pat Howard and Kirk Johnson, and redshirt freshmen John McKinney and Akin Akinniyi head the list of prospects to step up at the two inside spots. And in the fall, two newcomers will get a chance. The loss of true freshman Spencer Larsen (7 starts, 41 tackles at the whip) to a Mormon mission took away a primary candidate for the leading-tackler role. Coaches liked the way McKinney and Akinniyi attacked their scout team roles while redshirting as true freshmen. Justin Stewart's been around and can help. The best help for all these guys will be better work up front, clearly a main objective for 2003.
Defensive Tackles/Ends - Coach Marty Long
In the past quarter century the three Arizona teams with the best records each had something in common - upper-class guys on the defensive line who made a difference and later played professionally - George Hinkle, Dana Wells and Danny Lockett in 1986 (9-3), Rob Waldrop in 1993 (10-2), and Joe Tafoya and Daniel Greer in 1998 (12-1). Of course they had many other good things going, too, but success up front went a long way. In terms of experience, the 2003 Cats don't have three-or four-year players to man the trenches, and they'll have to get the job done with a different blend. Four lettermen return - Carlos Williams, Brad Brittain, Vince Feula and Carl Tuitavuki. They and departed Young Thompson shared the two roles in the double-eagle most of the year, with Williams starting nine games. Brittain missed three games with an injury. John Mackovic said earlier this year of defensive tackles - 'We'll have to grow our own.' That work is underway with Williams, Brittain and Feula, while second-year transfer Tuitavuki and mid-year transfer David Sharp join the mix with junior college backgrounds. Redshirt freshman Tim Volk moves inside and has potential. The Cats recruited two newcomers for fall, and they'll be tested from the get-go. But spring 2003 should identify a couple of leaders at each spot and get the entire corps ready to play some 3-4 defense.
Outside Linebackers - Coach Mike Hankwitz
Arizona has a pretty good group of candidates on the edge, though the position will evolve from the defensive end and the flex of the past. Two with the least experience - none - have received some support as potentially UA's best, Andre Torrey and Paul Philipp. Both were out of action last year because of hip and shoulder problems, respectively. Torrey had a solid '02 spring and looked to be an impact player before fall camp opened. Philipp was an incoming true freshman who eventually showed on the practice field that his motor is high-powered. Erstwhile whip linebacker Joe Siofele stepped in on one side and recorded more tackles than any UA defensive lineman in the past 13 years (66). He earned the team's outstanding defensive lineman award. Sophomore Marcus Smith was hurt a bit in '02 but otherwise looked like the real deal, and former walk-on Copeland Bryan has been a pleasant surprise. Senior Matt Molina has started at the former flex position and will stay outside. Soph fullback Antoine Singfield moves over from offense. Arizona recruited three players at the position this year, and their size and prep credentials will get them quick looks, though they might eventually move inside. Bryan had five sacks as a redshirt freshman and opened some eyes.
Secondary - Coach Steve Bernstein
Steve Bernstein returns to coaching the entire secondary after a year working with the deep guys while coordinator Larry Mac Duff handled strong safeties. Arizona has a couple of DBs who are among the 11 best defenders - cornerback Michael Jolivette and corner/safety Darrell Brooks. Whether the latter plays corner or safety, he'll play somewhere. Jolivette returns from a lost season watching 10 games while injured (knee), and brings his 10 career interceptions back into the mix. He tied the UA career record for passes broken up a year ago by knocking down his 38th. He's a cover guy who can make a difference. Another guy in the defensive backfield who's a football player of some resolve is strong safety Clay Hardt. Gary Love, Jason Martin, mid-year juco transfer Zeonte Sherman, Luis Nunez and Gary Shepard figure to contend for key roles at corner, while Anthony Fulcher (redshirted 2002) may also get a look at corner. Fulcher, Lamon Means, Tony Wingate and Justin Jochum also figure in the mix for will safety spots. A full spring and fall without injury could help this unit become vastly improved. Brooks, Love, Martin, Wingate, Jochum and Means saw their first action a year ago. Fall newcomers include some players who are likely to get some chances, too.
Special Teams - Coach Jay Boulware
Jay Boulware takes over special teams coordination this season, and a primary focus across the board will be consistency. Take a look at it this way: in 2002, Arizona games involved more than 300 total special teams plays - kickoffs, punts, field goals and PATs. That affords both teams plenty of opportunity to shine. UA was among the nation's best in punt returns (thanks in part to Bobby Wade) and blocked a half dozen kicks, but also was near the bottom of the league in punting, kickoff returns and field goals, plus had seven kicks blocked. Placekicker Bobby Gill and punter Danny Baugher have the physical ability to be solid, and they need to get it done in 2003. Redshirt freshman Nick Folk should challenge for both jobs. Ryan Slack returns for a third year as the nominal choice to kick off, but will need to stick it deep with regularity. The Cats have returning return specialists in Andrae Thurman, Gary Love and Jason Martin, all fleet afoot, but no doubt will look at some incoming speedsters. No amount of speed and shiftiness gives a return guy the open lane. No big leg alone can assure a 40-yard field goal. Etc. It takes 11 players doing their jobs, and Boulware gets a chance to mold the units that can make an impact in 2003.
Arizona 2003 Honors Candidates
Senior Wide Receiver Andrae Thurman
With 91 catches the past two seasons (61 for 915 yards as a junior), Thurman should be UA's key outside threat. He also is a special teams player who can return and block kicks. He hooked up for one of the longest plays in school history - a 92-yard pass reception and score last year and topped Bobby Wade with a 15.0 yards per catch average. As a No. 2 guy, he still finished in the top eight in three Pac-10 receiving categories, and this year should be the No. 1 guy on the unit. He enters the season No. 9 in UA career receptions with 105.
Senior Offensive Tackle Brandon Phillips
Four years ago when Brandon Phillips arrived as a 6-6, 260-pound defensive lineman, strength coaches took a look at his frame and envisioned a potential impact lineman on the other side of the ball. It's come to pass. Phillips is poised for an outstanding fifth-year senior season, and now steps on the field as a 6-foot-8, 330-pound tackle. After an apprentice season with four starts in 2001, he took over as a junior and owned the right-side role except for a few games missed with a strained knee. UA has some good, big and young linemen, and Phillips should be the veteran presence to anchor the unit,
Senior Linebacker Joe Siofele
Joe Siofele may move to inside Mike linebacker in 2003 after his first two seasons as the flex linebacker and a year as a defensive end. Last year, he filled in for a full season at defensive end, leading the team in sacks and leading the front in tackles with more (66) than any UA lineman since 1989. Siofele should be a veteran key to UA's defensive front seven wherever he plays and however the defense evolves under new defensive management.
Senior Cornerback Michael Jolivette
Last year in limited action - the first two games - Jolivette tied the UA career record by breaking up his 38th pass as a cover corner. With 10 career interceptions, it's evident he gets there when the ball does. He broke up a school season-record 20 passes as a sophomore and was No. 16 nationally with five interceptions. It's hoped his knee injury heals enough to give him a chance to play a senior season with the ï¿½lan he showed as an underclassman.
Senior Halfback Clarence Farmer
A career 2,000-yard rusher in less than two dozen games as the featured halfback, Farmer has 17 career touchdowns on runs averaging 25.7 yards per score. A knee injury thwarted his junior year, holding him out of the final eight contests, but he averaged 77 yards per game before the injury and was UA's second leading rusher (309 yards). He rushed for 1,229 to become UA's 11th career 1,00-yard runner in 2001 and has 10 career 100-yard games. UA could use his All-Pac-10 skills and a smart, steady performance from the guy.
High Academic Potential
Sophomore cornerback Darrell Brooks was a second-team Academic All-Pacific-10 selection a year ago, while sophomore quarterback Nic Costa was an honorable mention pick. Junior safety Justin Jochum was nominated by the University for the honor and won the team's undergraduate academic honor. UA has earned 13 league academic honors under John Mackovic the last two years including six first-team picks. The Cats will garner more in 2003. UA has had back-to-back AFCA Good Works Team honors in Eli Wnek in 2001 and Jason Johnson in 2002. Johnson also won the Woody Hayes National Scholar Athlete Award in 2002.
|Spring Football Depth Chart|
|WR||4||Andrae Thurman, 6-0, 185, *Sr., 3L|
|84||Ricky Williams, 6-3, 210, *So., 1L|
|81||Juan Valentine, Sr., 1L|
|LT||72||Tanner Bell, So., 1L|
|79||Chris Johnson, 6-3, 295, *Jr., 2L|
|LG||75||Reggie Sampay, 6-3, 295, Sr., 3L|
|79||Chris Johnson, 6-3, 295, *Jr., 2L|
|C||67||Keoki Fraser, 6-3, 300, *Jr., 2L|
|66||Kili Lefotu, 6-5, 298, So., 1L|
|RG||66||Kili Lefotu, 6-5, 298, So., 1L|
|79||Keith Jackson, 6-5, 312, *Fr.-RS|
|RT||68||Brandon Phillips, 6-8, 330, *Sr., 2L|
|70||John Parada, 6-8, 326, So., 1L|
|TE||46||Matt Padron, 6-5, 259, *Fr.-RS|
|87||Steve Fleming, 6-6, 250, *Jr., 2L - injured|
|WR||18||Lance Relford, 6-0, 200, *Sr., 3L|
|82||Biren Ealy, 6-2, 175, So., 1L|
|5||Mike Jefferson, 6-2, 195, *Fr.-RS|
|QB||7||Nic Costa, 5-11, 200, *So., 1L|
|15||Ryan O'Hara, 6-5, 200, *Fr.-RS|
|HB||26||Mike Bell, 6-0, 210, *So., 1L|
|23||Gainus Scott, 5-10, 198, *So., 1L|
|21||Beau Carr, 5-10, 210, So., 1L|
|32||Clarence Farmer, 6-0, 224, Sr., 3L++|
|FB||36||Gilbert Harris, 6-1, 215, So., 1L|
|35||Sean Jones, 5-11, 230, *So., 1L|
|45||Antoine Singfield, 6-1, 220, *So., SQ|
|48||Pedro Limon, 6-0, 235, *So., SQ|
|OLB||83||Copeland Bryan, 6-4, 235, So., 1L|
|55||Marcus Smith, 6-5, 225, So., 1L|
|DE||92||Carlos Williams, 6-5,4, 295, Jr., 2L|
|58||Tim Volk, 6-2, 265, *Fr.-RS|
|NT||99||Vince Feula, 6-0, 300, Jr., 1L|
|90||Carl Tuitavuki, 6-3, 334, Sr., 1L|
|DE||91||Brad Brittain, 6-5, 285, *So., 1L|
|94||Paul Philipp, 6-2, 265, *Fr.-RS|
|96||David Sharp, 6-3, 290, Jr., JC|
|OLB||56||Andre Torrey, 6-4, 250, *Jr.-RS|
|49||Matt Molina, 6-2, 240, Sr., 3L|
|LB||42||Joe Siofele, 6-2, 260, *Sr., 3L|
|40||John McKinney, 6-0, 220, *Fr.-RS|
|LB||44||Patrick Howard, 5-11, 225, *Jr., 2L|
|25||Kirk Johnson, 5-11, 220, Jr., 2L|
|38||Akin Akinniyi, 5-11, 220, *Fr.-RS|
|CB||9||Gary Love, 5-10, 180, *Sr., 3L|
|13||Luis Nunez, 5-11, 190, *Jr.-RS|
|8||Michael Jolivette, 5-10, 185, *Sr., 3L - injured|
|SS||33||Clay Hardt, 6-2, 200, *Sr., 3L|
|30||Tony Wingate, 6-1, 200, *Jr., 1L|
|24||Anthony Fulcher, 5-11, 198, *Jr.-RS, 2L|
|CB||3||Jason Martin, 5-10, 175, So., 1L|
|17||Gary Shepard, 5-10, 180, *Fr.-RS|
|10||Zeonte Sherman, 6-0, 194, Jr., JC|
|FS||6||Darrell Brooks, 6-0, 192, *So., 1L|
|19||Lamon Means, 6-3, 190, So., 1L|
|31||Justin Jochum, 6-0, 188, *So., 1L|
|PK||28||Bobby Gill, 5-11, 190, *Jr., 1L|
|16||Nicholas Folk, 6-1, 180, *Fr.-RS|
|KO||34||Ryan Slack, 6-1, 195, Jr., 2L|
|P||43||Danny Baugher, 5-10, 185, So., 1L|
|20||James Molina, 5-11, 195, Sr., 1L|
|Snap||50||Ben DalMolin, 6-0, 210, *Jr., 2L; Joe Siofele|
|Ret||4||A.Thurman (PR/KO), G. Love (KO), J. Martin (KO)|
|(++Not participating in spring ball)|
TOMORROW | 5:00pm PTLive