April 9, 2002
ARIZONA HEAD COACH JOHN MACKOVIC'S REMARKS
Mackovic's spring practice evaluation:
"I am very pleased with the spring practice. I had a good time coaching and watching what was happening with our team. I was excited by all of the improvements that we made defensively. Our No. 1 priority for the spring was personal improvement, and the key was for each player to make some improvements. The coaches will sit down with the players and identify what improvements were made and still need to be made. We are in the process of having our coaches evaluate the players' performances."
On the offense:
"Offensively, we were not trying to re-create anything. We knew what we were doing, we like our running game, we like our passing game, we like what we do, and we like how we do it. We were most interested in individual improvements. We also had a number of young players with a lot of potential who were highly recruited last year, and we wanted to see what they could do. We wanted to see how the young players like Nic Costa, Mike Bell, Gainus Scott and Sean Jones would perform. We were, however, spotty in some places throughout the spring."
On the defense:
"What I noticed last year on defense is that we did not have enough people around the football whether it was a run or a pass. It's not a matter of players not playing hard enough or aggressively, but the truth is that we did not play effectively. We weren't around the football enough, so that was a high priority this spring. We made improvement in that area, and it is critical for a defense to have people around the ball."
"During the offseason, we recognized that we were strong in some areas on defense, but that we needed some help and advancements in other areas. I don't think that we are there yet, but I am not the least bit disappointed. The practices really allowed us to maximize the strengths of some of our players. But, we will be a work in progress, especially in training camp and in the early part of the season."
"Football is the consummate team game, and it is a matter of getting every unit to work together. We've done a nice job recognizing that and moving in a direction that will improve our defense."
"A year ago, our defense really kind of handled the offense for the most part (in spring drills), and of course, that was expected. Everyone had high expectations for the defense. But, as it turned out, we weren't as strong defensively as we thought we were when it came to playing games. Now, we at least know what Washington is going to look like first hand or what Oregon is going to look like. So, from that standpoint, we have a much better understanding of what our expectations might be entering the season."
On the quarterbacks:
"Jason Johnson showed great growth and great maturity in what we are asking him to do as our quarterback. Jason was sharp, and he was sharp all spring long. He had one or two days where he just wasn't very sharp. Other than that, he threw the ball in great spots, and he did a good job of handing the offense and the different coverages. I am excited in where he is going and how he pushed himself to improve."
"Nic Costa learned a lot, and he has shown good improvement. He didn't get to play any last year, so the spring was a learning process for him. He showed that he is smart and can move around. He gives us a different dimension at quarterback in terms of pulling the ball down and running with it. His first priority has to be to learn the basic offense."
On the running backs:
"Both Gainus Scott and Mike Bell had a really nice spring. They both showed that they can run and catch the ball. They have great hands, and I was pleased that they got to run the ball as much as they did. I think the spring really helped them understand that they can be contributing factors for the offense this fall. I expect both players to be really active in everything that we do. Both Mike and Gainus have exciting break-away speed, but we didn't get to see very much of that during the spring."
On junior halfback Clarence Farmer:
"When he is on that field, the young backs recognize that he can do just about anything. Between Gainus (Scott), Mike (Bell), Clarence (Farmer) and Chris Harris, we have all different kinds of runners. I hope that Clarence can be more of a force from the offensive standpoint, and he also is in a position where leading by example is the strongest message that he can give (to the other players)."
On the wide receivers:
"We added a player with Juan Valentine this spring, but we really will miss Malosi Leonard and Brandon Marshall, and what they brought to us as seniors. A year ago I said that our receivers should not hold us back from having a good offense, and they did not. However, when we lost those two key veterans, we lost a lot of experience there. We hope that our two incoming freshman receivers can come in and give us some talent and make some plays right away."
On the offensive line:
"The offensive line was a little bit light because we had a few guys who were injured or unable to practice. Darren Safranek was out, and Brandon Phillips missed most of the last two weeks because he was ill. Matt Page was gone for a week. The linemen up front really had to gut it out in the spring game, and that is an area that we need to continue to work on. We lost a couple of guys who were seniors after last year, and that likely will open it up for the incoming freshmen to work their way into the two-deep."
On the defensive line:
"We have Young Thompson, Vince Feula, Brad Brittain and Carlos Williams as those four in the middle. The group in the middle will be bigger, stronger and a more active group than we had a year ago. The same will hold true at defensive end with Fata Avegalio and Andre Torrey who showed that he is going to compete for a starting spot."
On senior linebacker Lance Briggs:
"Lance had a really good spring, and I am pleased with the way he made plays. We expect that he will continue to play the way that he has, and I am hopeful that he will play even better and be even more of a force on the field. Lance is in a position where he can be a leader by example in everything he does, on and off the field."
On junior tight end Javier Martinez:
"Javier Martinez came to me and said that he wants to play defense. He would be bigger than anybody we have, and he would be up in the Andre Torrey size range. There is a possibility that we may give him a chance to go to the defense this fall. He is a junior college player, so we really want to get him on the field. He is tough, and he is active, and everything about him is what we like for our offense. We may need him on the field as a defensive player who can help our team."
On the placekickers:
"No one at the beginning of last fall demonstrated the ability to kick better than Sean Keel. Even during the season, no one demonstrated during the practices that he was better than Sean Keel. Bobby Gill made improvements during the spring, and hopefully, he will have the opportunity to kick this season."