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Big Week for Arizona Football
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 03/20/2001
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New Wildcat head football coach John Mackovic, who took charge of the program Dec. 4, begins his first live-action drills this Saturday with the start of UA's spring practice.

Mackovic assembled a staff of assistants, completed the spring recruiting process culminating in the Feb. 7 signing date, engaged in considerable public speaking, and has spent plenty of time putting in his new offensive system and completing other preparations for the new season.

But this week it all falls in place when the Wildcats and coaches step on the practice field for the first time together.

UA's initial practices are to be held at 10 a.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday.

A great deal of off-season interest has centered on the Cats' quarterback position, a role to be challenged for by six players in spring ball -- juniors Jason Johnson and Erik Garcia, sophomores Cliff Watkins and Kyle Slager, and redshirt freshmen John Rattay and Steve Fleming.

"Developing quarterbacks is a key for us," Mackovic said. "There are six on the spring roster but we haven't seen any of them play. They're all starting new to our system but the good news is that there is some talent. We need at least two of them to emerge as players in whom we'll be confident when we open fall camp," he said.

Along with Mackovic, the Wildcat coaching staff includes six other members who will be getting their first look at Arizona players this weekend in a manner other than on videotape -- offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Rick Dykes, defensive coordinator and ends coach Larry Mac Duff, defensive secondary coach Steve Bernstein, tight ends coach Jay Boulware, running backs coach Bobby Kennedy and inside linebackers coach Scott Pelluer.

Mac Duff has 10 years experience at Arizona in coaching the Cats' double-eagle flex defense (from 1987 to 1996), but he's been in the NFL for four seasons and has only seen UA play on television. He'll work with defensive ends and the whip linebackers.

Three coaches from Dick Tomey's staff were hired by Mackovic -- offensive line coach Charlie Dickey, wide receivers coach Rob Ianello and defensive line coach Marty Long.

"I think we have an outstanding staff in place with a solid blend of experience from a variety of places," Mackovic said.

Mackovic, a college football analyst at ESPN for the past three seasons, returns to the field for the first time since the 1997 season but has seen plenty of football in that period.

"One thing about being in an allied trade for several years was that I constantly looked at programs and saw what people were doing. I probably watched and evaluated more games than some coaches."

UA will start spring practice with some players on the sidelines following surgery during the offseason, including starting left tackle Makoa Freitas.

The Wildcats return 14 starters and 47 lettermen including first-team All-Pac-10 slections in inside linebacker Lance Briggs and return specialist Bobby Wade. The latter also could be limited in spring by rehabilitation for shoulder surgery in January.

Spring practice includes 15 sessions and culminates in the April 21 Spring Game. All practices are open to the public.

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