Greg Byrne's Wildcat Wednesday
Coach Tomey Talks About Spring Practice
By: Arizona Athletics
Release: April 11, 2000
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University of Arizona Football
Head Coach Dick Tomey
Press Conference - 4/11/00 - Post-Spring Practice

"We saw some really encouraging things out at spring practice. We finished drills up yesterday, and throughout the spring, there were a lot young people who really responded very well. We have a lot of people who have a very strong will to get better, and a lot of things can still happen before now and the start of fall camp. We have a very strong commitment from guys, and they are going to be working hard to get better. We know a lot more about our personnel, and we know what each person needs to do to get better.

"Between now and Camp Cochise, we go from being focused on the team to going back to the individual for the next four months. What everybody is going to be doing is talking to their position coaches, me and (strength coach) Dan Wirth about how they can get better. There are some guys who need to gain a little more weight, lose some weight, make their foot speed a little better. There are people who can make enormous developments over the summer. Last summer, Dennis Northcutt made a huge development.

On the team leaders:
"OJ (Ortege Jenkins) is not going to be the leader on the team. Bruce Wiggins is going to be a leader on the offense, too. The quarterback is the leader, only if he makes plays. I think he took a great leadership role in the offseason, getting guys out for throwing and practice sessions. I think he is going to take that role again over the summer. But we also need for Bruce Wiggins to be the leader of the offensive line world and Joe Tafoya to be the leader of the defense. I think we are seeing that, too.

"Joe could not compete during the spring (because of injuries), but he was a shining example of what it takes to be a winner. Joe just wants so bad to be part of a winning team. Joe Tafoya is as respected a football player as I think we have had here because he is such a tough guy and hard worker.

"I think our wide receiver group will be solid, even though Brad (Brennan) was not able to be out there during the spring. We have a lot of young guys who are going to have the chance to participate and make a difference. (James) Toge Hugo at tight end really did a nice job in practice, too. He is probably as improved of a player as anyone out there on the field.

On the running back position:
"All three guys (Leo Mills, Leon Callen and Larry Croom) are very capable players. Leo Mills took better care of the football during practices. If we had to evaluate the position and make a decision right now, which we don't, Leo probably was the one who had the stronger spring practices. Also, we are going to use Lance Briggs in our short-yardage package. He has too much of a background in that role to negate his talent and only use him at linebacker.

On Ortege Jenkins:
"There are some interesting things for O.J. that are going to change. First, if he is stinking it up in a game and can't get anything going, then he is going to have to stay in there and get things turned around. I watched (Dallas Cowboys' QB) Troy Aikman last year, and he couldn't complete a pass. But he has to stay in there, make adjustments, get better for the second half and win the game. A quarterback has to work through the tough times. The second thing is that he is going to have to learn to play injured. It he's got an 'owie' here or there, he is going to have to stick it out and play. Before he had the luxury of not having to do that. Keith (Smith) did not have to do that either. I think both things are going to be good for him. There's a real energy about (being the only starting quarterback). He wants to lead the team and be the guy who wins. I evaulate quarterbacks a little different than everyone else. I think that you look at their win-loss records, not their stats. My theory is that they may not be pretty, but they are going to find a way to win the game, then they are a good quarterback.

On the kicking game:
"Tommy Kirovski is not going to be coming back. It was something that he and his parents decided not to come back. We are going to go out and look for someone to come in and compete with Sean Keel. Tommy has been ill, but I think that he has also been homesick. The other thing is that I don't think he liked playing football as much as he did soccer. I think that he likes to go out there and get hit and knocked around.

"On most pass rushing downs, I think that we are going to be moving Joe Tafoya inside (to defensive tackle from end). As much of an outside force as Joe can be, I think he can be an even better pass rusher from the inside. Then on the outside, we are going to have the combination of Idris Haroon, Tony Thompson and Mike Robertson. All three of those guys can be very explosive and have a chance to be very good. W e are also hoping that Johnny Jackson will be able to come in and contribute for us.

On the back-up quarterbacks:
"I was very impressed with Cliff Watkins in the spring game, even though he did not get a lot of time. Jason Johnson is a very cerebral guy, and he is getting better all the time. Jason and Cliff are ahead of the other people, but this is a situation where I think people are going to get better over the summer by learning and osmosis.

On Bobby Wade:
"The decision (of Wade playing offense, defense or both) is going to be that when we are finished playing, he is going to be tired, real tired... every week. Bobby and I talked about this yesterday, and he is willing to do whatever it takes to be a winner. He is a very instinctive, talented football player.

On the 2000 schedule:
"The thing that is happening in Division-I football that I don't think a lot of people understand is that there is not a lot of difference between Ohio State and Utah. Our schedule is a tough one, but I think there are a lot of teams in the conference that have a tough schedule. Our non-conference schedule is not as soft as some teams', but I think we are going to have a lot of good games. When you are in this conference, you are going to play tough games at home and on the road. Because of that, you are going to have to win games both at home and on the road.

More on the running backs:
"What the offense is going to be losing this year is that you are not going to have some of the instant touchdowns that Trung (Canidate) gave us. After 10 yards, it was just over. There are just not people out there who can do that. I mean, I watch a lot of games, and I just don't see people where after 10 yards it is just over for the defense. In a lot of years, we would have had one of these guys (Mills, Callen and Croom) and we would have said, 'Hey, this is good.' So, I think we are in a good situation."

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