Aug. 9, 2001
TUCSON - The University of Arizona football team picked up the pace a bit in training camp drills, installing more offense and defense and working on kicking situations.
With two practices scheduled Thursday, morning activity was all business. The team won't don full pads until Saturday, but the Wildcats worked in several full-line and seven-on-seven passing and rushing sessions with evident enthusiasm.
One concern for coach John Mackovic and special teams coordinator Scott Pelluer is finding a punter to replace senior Chris Palic, a married player and father who left the team the day before reporting date to seek full-time employment. The No. 2 punter in spring ball, Ramey Peru, will face stiff competition from free safety Clay Hardt, plus coaches are looking at kickers Gens Goodman, Bobby Gill and freshman Nick Kredit.
"Right now we are looking for hang time and distance, and we are looking to see who is the most consistent at both. Clay Hardt kicked very well this morning, and he really impressed me. He saw that there was a need in that area, and he came to us very anxious to do a good job," Mackovic said.
Sophomore punter Ramey Peru is fighting for the top job against several returning players and a newcomer.
"We will probably have three or four punters, and we will focus on two after a certain period of time, which could be right before our first game," he added.
Quarterbacks fared decently in skeleton passing drills against linebackers and defensive backs in the morning session. Junior Jason Johnson completed 4-of-6 passes for 75 yards, sophomore Cliff Watkins was a perfect 5-of-5 for 98 yards and a 50-yard touchdown to Brandon Marshall, redshirt freshman John Rattay was 2-of-4 for 18 yards, and true freshman Nic Costa completed his only attempt for 15 yards. Combined the foursome was 12-of-16 for 206 yards.
Sophomore Gary Love caught three passes for 58 yards, and seven other receivers caught balls in the morning session.
Cornerback Michael Jolivette intercepted a Johnson pass in a full-line drill comprised mostly of running plays, although Johnson also hit Marshall for what would have been a 40-yard score. The play was called back by wide receivers coach Rob Ianello for an illegal formation by one of his players.
Cornerback Anthony Banks, sidelined momentarily by a dislocated little finger, caused a fumble later in a drill and also broke up a pass. Defensive ends Austin Uku and Alex Luna and tackle Vince Feula had sacks in the full-line drill.
Senior defensive end Eli Wnek, an academic all-conference player and one of the Cats' expected bright spots, is sidelined with a foot injury but remains positive -- and busy. In the early part of morning practice, he put down his crutches and worked a sled drill.
"Our defense is very gung ho, and they have that get-after-them type of attitude. They are doing a nice job out there," Mackovic said.
Running backs found some daylight against Arizona's defensive units, with halfbacks Clarence Farmer and Leo Mills each carrying three times for 15 yards and freshman Mike Bell toting once for a 10-yard gain.
"Well, they (the running backs) still have a lot to learn, and I would say that they are doing okay," Mackovic said. "It's not just about being able to run, but we also have to focus on protections and blocking. Our offense is not built around one thing, so it is good for our running backs to be able to catch the ball in the open field."
Coaches have moved freshman tight end Carlos Williams to defensive end in a bid to build some depth caused by sidelining injuries to seniors Eli Wnek and Johnny Jackson. Wnek is likely out until October with a stress fracture in his right foot, and Jackson is conditioning but has yet to participate in drills because of lower back pain.
The Cats were to practice from 8 to 9:30 p.m. Thursday then ease up with one late afternoon practice on Friday. Arizona opens the season on the road at San Diego State in a game to be cablecast nationally on ESPN2 at 7:05 p.m. (PDT) on Thursday, Aug. 30.