Wildcats Prepare to Close Drills with Spring Game

April 15, 2004

TUCSON, Ariz. - The University of Arizona football team held its 13th spring practice session Thursday afternoon in the UA practice facility. Head coach Mike Stoops and the Arizona assistant coaches put the Wildcats through another rigorous, fast-paced practice, as the players worked out in full pads for over two hours.

Stoops continues to be encouraged by the team's overall progress on both sides of the ball, but he recognizes that the team has a great deal of work to do in the coming months in order to become a better and more productive unit.

'I definitely think that the players have had enough time to become familiar with our offensive and defensive schemes,' Stoops said. 'We are becoming more comfortable every single day with what we are trying to do, but we still have a long way to go. The key is that if we can have a good, productive summer, and we can continue to work hard, we have a really good chance to be much improved over last year.'

According to Stoops: 'The players have confidence in what they are doing and in the system, but it just takes a lot of time and a lot of repetitions. Their attitudes have been great, and they have done everything we have asked them to do. They understand that you get what you put in, and a lot of them have been through some hard times over the last few years. So, they know the kind of work that it is going to take in order to be successful at this level.'

On the search for a starting quarterback, Stoops named sophomore Kris Heavner as the team's leading candidate for the starting job following Tuesday's practice. Stoops said that Heavner has shown the most consistency in moving the offense. Today, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Mike Canales went into more detail about the quarterback race, and he explained after practice that even though Heavner is the leader at this time, 'the quarterback race is far from over.'

'Based on each of the quarterbacks' performances in the two scrimmages and the team situations in practice, Kris was the guy who constantly moved the chains and moved the team down the field. He really has elevated the players around him,' Canales said.

'We haven't named a No. 2 guy because the quarterback race is still far from over,' Canales added. 'Kris got the nod, and it is his job to keep. But, all of the other quarterbacks know that the race is far from over, and they are ready to compete every single day. They all have great attitudes, and we have thrown a lot at them over the last few weeks. We have been impressed with each of them as an offensive staff.'

Stoops and his staff also have been impressed with junior running back Mike Bell's work during spring drills.

'Mike can do it all,' Stoops added. 'He has great speed and great hands, and he really is the total package. He is one of the best I have seen in a very long time. We just have to find ways to get him the ball, especially in tough situations.'

In terms of the format for Saturday's Spring Game, Stoops explained following today's practice that the offensive units and the defensive units are set to play against each other for the duration of the scrimmage. He and the assistant coaches have designed a point system that will be used throughout the game to rate different aspects of what transpires with regard to both the offense's and defense's total performance.

In filling the coaching vacancy left on the Wildcat staff by John Peterson, who resigned earlier in the week to take a job at Ohio State, Stoops said he will 'hire the best guy that makes the team better,' and that it will be a couple of weeks before he makes a final decision.

Arizona has two practices remaining on the spring football schedule. The Wildcats are scheduled to hold a short practice on Friday, April 16 before closing spring practice sessions with the annual Spring Game on Saturday, April 17, at 2 p.m., in Arizona Stadium.

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