Cats Are Catching On

Aug. 9, 2009

TUCSON – Pleasant temperatures and plentiful sunshine greeted the Arizona football team as it returned to Salpointe Catholic High School on Sunday morning for its fourth practice in as many days to open Fall Camp.

For a second straight day, players donned shoulder pads allowing for nearly full contact drills as both the offensive and defensive teams looked to fine tune schemes installed over the first three days of workouts.

It has become clear early in camp that depth has become more of a strength for the Wildcats, with coaches mixing first, second and sometimes third string units into team drills. In fact, coaches even ran two separate 7-on-7 station drills to increase reps for players, something quite beneficial for newcomers still trying to grasp the intricacies of the systems.

Offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes has been pleased with the progress of the offense as it has mixed veterans with newcomers early in camp to spread around repetitions. Dykes, in his third year at Arizona, said he installs his offensive schemes over the first three days of practices, which can cause some newcomers to be overwhelmed on the fourth day when the entire system is in place.

On the other hand, players like Juron Criner and Greg Nwoko are beginning to emerge in their second Fall Camp after arriving to campus last August. Dykes mentioned Criner, a part-time player at receiver as a true freshman, as one of the most improved players on the field and one who is challenging veteran Terrell Turner for the team’s starting role at the “X” receiver position.

Nwoko, a running back who redshirted last fall, has been getting reps with the first team offense along with backfield mates Nic Grigsby and Keola Antolin. Dykes described Nwoko as a physical runner who is shiftier in the open field than some people might think.

On the defensive side of the ball, experience, depth and leadership is abundant. One of the few question marks entering camp was the linebacker position, but returnees Sterling Lewis, Xavier Kelley and Vuna Tuihalamaka make for a superb starting unit. Behind them, Corey Hall has mixed in from the secondary for reps, and redshirt freshman R.J. Young has added strength and is now more confident and assertive in his second year. Throw in transfer C.J. Parish, who has been impressive early, and a solid second unit is in place.

The Wildcats will practice in full pads for the first in camp on Monday morning. Practice will begin at 6:15 a.m. at Salpointe Catholic High School.


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