Aug. 5, 2008
TUCSON - It was business as usual for the Wildcats on Day 2 of Fall Camp as they held practice at Tucson High School with a mix of music to welcome the players on the field. The notable difference on Tuesday was the intensity the defense showed throughout the two hour and 15 minute workout.
"We've had two really good days of practice," Stoops told his team afterwards. "I like what we're doing. We're flying around and making plays. We've got a lot of work to do, but if we keep working the way we are, we're going to make some great strides."
The team started practice with a half hour of individual drills, then focused on special teams. During this segment, four different stations were being run: a coverage station, punting, receiving and receivers. Since Keenyn Crier is still recovering from surgery he had last week, the punts were divided between Alex Zendejas, Kyle Day and Jason Bondzio. Receiving their punts were Mike Thomas, Mike Turner and senior cornerback Marquis Hundley. Bondzio and Zendejas also worked on field goals. Bondzio was three for four, missing a forty yard attempt, and Zendejas was four for four.
During a lengthy period of seven-on-seven drills, senior Willie Tuitama and freshman Matt Scott were both impressive. Tuitama completed 14 of 20 passes for 175 yards. He also threw one touchdown and one interception. He hooked up with sophomore tight end Rob Gronkowski for five catches for 47 yards. Nic Grigsby had three catches for 54 yards and a touchdown.
Next, Scott took the snaps completing four of six passes for 77 yards. He threw one touchdown pass, but the defense was able to register a coverage "sack". With Scott under center, Gronkowski caught two passes for 45 yards and a touchdown. Scott showcased a strong arm and the ability to thread the needle.
The 11-on-11 team period saw an energized defense that blitzed from all angles and put consistent pressure on the quarterbacks. Every time Tuitama dropped back to pass he was pressured, which resulted in completing just two of six passes for eight yards.
Redshirt freshman, Bryson Beirne was up next and didn't fare much better. He completed only one of three attempts for seven yards to Nic Grigsby. On the defensive side, both Ricky Elmore and Kaniela Tuipulotu were credited with batting down passes at the line of scrimmage.
Practice concluded with another round of 11-on-11. This time only Tuitama and Scott lined up under center. Tuitama completed seven of 12 passes for 77 yards, while Scott completed six of nine passes for 49 yards. Even in this drill, the defense shined again "sacking" both quarterbacks a combined five times. With all the pressure the defense was bringing, it forced Scott to fumble two snaps, which he rushed for minimum yardage. Tuipulotu also batted another ball down.
The Wildcats will host their third practice of Fall Camp on Wednesday morning at 6:15 a.m. and will likely be back at Tucson High as the players strap on shoulder pads for the first time.
NOTES AND QUOTES
The Arizona defense has been labeled young and inexperienced by many, but it is a group eager to prove that it can be one of the best in Mike Stoops' time at Arizona. One obvious sign that this group may be coming together is increased communication, particularly in the secondary. Players like Nate Ness and Devin Ross are helping to provide the leadership that many think is a missing part of this year's unit ... On the offensive side, junior tackle Eben Britton has assumed a key leadership role along the offensive line. Always an intense competitor, Britton was vocal throughout Tuesday's practice while holding himself and other offensive players accountable on plays - both good and bad ... Britton has worked at left tackle early in camp and seems to be adjusting nicely, while Adam Grant has been getting significant reps at right tackle ... On his move to left tackle, Britton says, "Left tackle is a money spot for offensive lineman. It's a challenge, but I like it. A lot of the best defensive rusher's come off the left side, so it's a big challenge." .... Day 2 of practice was another pleasant one for the team and patrons in attendance. While a refreshing breeze kept temperatures comfortable on Monday, slightly overcast skies Tuesday morning kept the sun away and temperatures down ...For a second consecutive day, players were welcomed to Tucson High School with music playing from the loudspeakers. However, the staff played the music for the entirety of the practice instead of shutting it down after warmups and individual drills.