“We had another really, really good day today,” head coach Mike Stoops said as he addressed the media following practice. “Our focus and intensity has been excellent. Our execution is getting better and better.”
The Wildcats worked through their typical daily drills, including an hour of individual group drills. The team then broke up to work on its punt units during the special teams period. The last hour of practice pitted the offense against the defense in 7-on-7 ?'skeleton’ drills and a full team segment for the final half hour.
During the final 11-on-11 team segment, both sides (offense and defense) had its share of big plays. The defense struck first as junior college transfer Nate Ness picked off an Adam Austin pass and returned it for a touchdown for a second straight night. The defense kept the heat on the offense as Johnathon Turner forced Willie Tuitama out of the pocket before the play was blown dead, resulting in a sack.
The offense didn’t fold, however, as Tuitama and senior wide receiver Syndric Steptoe turned the tide. Coming off two-straight completions, Tuitama found a matchup he liked with Steptoe lined up against freshmen corner back Devin Ross. Despite solid coverage by the talented newcomer, Steptoe was able to separate enough to haul in Tuitama’s pass behind Ross and take it the distance for a touchdown. Two plays later, on the final play of the night, Tuitama again went deep to Steptoe, hooking up for a near 50-yard catch behind freshman corner Cam Nelson and redhirt freshman safety Corey Hall.
The big plays capped a very exciting day for the program. Earlier in the afternoon, the coaching staff received word that the highly-touted junior college prospect, Louis Holmes, cleared admission at the school, making him available to participate in his first practice as a Wildcat. Holmes was certainly the focus of many fans and media members, as well as his teammates and coaches.
“He’s everything we thought he would be,” Stoops said of the defensive end. “He is a fabulous player. You can see why he was the No. 1 recruit in the country. He adds a new dimension to our defense and gives us credibility at the position.”
Holmes spent most of the day filling out necessary paper work to get admitted to the school, only a day after completing his final junior college course. He then spent the afternoon hustling to complete a physical and get fitted for his equipment, before joining the team for his first practice as a Wildcat.
“It’s a relief,” Holmes said of finally getting admitted to the school after initially signing with the school last December. “I’m excited. I’m very happy to finally get started.”
“I was playing off mostly reaction today,” Holmes added. “I’m listening a lot and watching the guys in front of me.”
Holmes’ teammates were also excited to have the 6-6 defensive end on board, but not just for his physical talents.
“Louis Holmes is the man,” junior corner Antoine Cason said with a laugh as he walked past the mass of media huddled around Holmes after practice. “I love that guy.
The team will hold its annual Media Day tomorrow morning at 10 a.m. The event is closed to the public, but the 6 p.m. practice at Rincon Vista will be open to the public.
NOTES: For a second straight night, very pleasant weather kept the players as well as nearly 75 fans in attendance feeling comfortable throughout the two and a half hour practice ... Former Wildcat offensive lineman Kevin Berry was in attendance ... Freshman wide receiver Delashaun Dean has switched jersey numbers from No. 20 to No. 18. Dean says that No. 18 “just feels better,” and he confirmed that he is faster in the new uniform ... QB Willie Tuitama looked impressive for a second straight day. He completed eight of 11 passes during 7-on-7’s and connected on 10 of 12 attempts in the team segment. Said Stoops of Tuitama’s performance: “Willie looks really sharp. He is much improved from a year ago, I think. You can see it in his velocity and decision making.” ... Kyle McQuown again took the majority of punt attempts during the special teams segment and showed improved hang time since Spring Practice ... Shawn Best, a member of the UA Track & Field team, has joined the football team as a defensive tackle. Best, a shot putter on the T&F team, is listed at 6-4, 315lbs.
Remaining Fall Football Practice Schedule
SUBJECT TO CHANGE
Saturday Aug. 5 6 p.m.
Sunday Aug. 6 --
Monday Aug. 7 6 p.m.
Tuesday Aug. 8 6 p.m.
Wednesday Aug. 9 6 p.m.
Thursday Aug. 10 8 a.m., 6 p.m.
Friday Aug. 11 6 p.m.
Saturday Aug. 12 8 a.m., 6 p.m.
Sunday Aug. 13 --
Monday Aug. 14 8 a.m., 6:15 p.m.
Tuesday Aug. 15 5:45 p.m.
Wednesday Aug. 16 8 a.m., 6:15 p.m.
Thursday Aug. 17 5:45 p.m.
Friday Aug. 18 8 a.m., 6:15 p.m.
Saturday Aug. 19 Meet the Team,
Monday Aug. 21 Classes begin
Monday Aug. 28 Mike Stoops’
weekly news conference