Greg Byrne's Wildcat Wednesday
Pads Pop in Spirited Saturday Morning Workout
By: Arizona Athletics
Release: March 25, 2007
Photo Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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TUCSON ?- After a cool and soggy practice on Friday evening in Arizona Stadium, the University of Arizona football team returned to the Jimenez Practice Facility Saturday morning for the third of 15 spring practices allowed by the NCAA. Gorgeous weather conditions welcomed the Wildcats as they strapped on pads for the first time, as the offense and defense continued to install more plays and schemes.


“I loved the first three days of practice,” head coach Mike Stoops said as he addressed the team following practice. “We’ve really put in a lot of hard work and we are continuing to progress.”


After an hour of individual drills, the offense and defense came together for a spirited, pad-popping “middle” drill. While all contact was kept strictly to the upper body with an emphasis of keeping players off the ground, the defensive lineman and linebackers didn’t shy away from contact. The offense responded with some pounding of its own, opening up holes for Chris Jennings, Xavier Smith and the other running backs. The UA offense, donning the white jerseys, also implanted a series of screen plays, slipping the ball to the array of targets in offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes’ offense.


After a special teams segment focused on shedding blockers and breaking down in front of the punt returner, the Wildcats moved to a 7-on-7 skeleton segment. Willie Tuitama and Tyler Lyon took the majority of the reps, as the offense worked to spread the ball around the field.


The Wildcats then closed practice with a 30-minute 11-on-11 segment, as the defense looked to create pressure on the offense. It was a back and forth battle between the two units, as each showed its ability to make plays. One such play was a Tuitama completion to senior wide receiver Anthony Johnson, who hauled in the laser pass despite tight coverage from sophomore defensive back Cam Nelson and sophomore linebacker Xavier Kelley. On the sidelines, safety Dominic Patrick explained to his fellow secondary mates on the field, “Those are the ones that you’ve got to applaud,” referring to the tough completion.


On the defensive side, freshman linebacker Cole Graybill, who has received high praise for his instincts and football IQ from linebackers coach Tim Kish, snared a deflected pass for an interception.


Stoops was very pleased with what he saw from the offense, but also he liked the way his defense reacted.


“This offense has so many options,” Stoops told the team. “It may look simple, but from a defensive standpoint it is very difficult to match up against.”


“I really liked the way we hustled on defense today,” Stoops added. “It’s good for us to get out here and get in shape for rushing the quarterback.”


Tuitama, a junior quarterback, has adjusted comfortably to the new offensive system. He mentioned that the entire offensive system has been implemented, and now the unit must work out the kinks through repetition as it builds confidence through the spring. Tuitama explained that one of the benefits of the new offense, which features wider offensive line splits than the previous pro-style system, is that it makes the defense easier to read from his perspective behind center.


“The offensive line is more spread out, so it’s easier to see the blitz coming,” Tuitama explained to reporters after practice.


“We get rid of the ball somewhat quicker,” he added. “I just get the ball and let it go.”


Like Stoops, Tuitama has seen significant improvement since Spring Practice opened on Wednesday.


“From Wednesday to today, we are a whole lot better,” he said.


The coaches hope to similar improvement throughout the spring on both sides of the ball, as the team continues to look ahead to the 2007 season, which opens up on September 1, at Brigham Young.


“We’ve got a long ways to go to prepare for the season,” Stoops said to the team. “BYU is a great football team. We know how tough they were to play here. We are going to have to be ready for a tough game.”


The Wildcats will have the rest of Saturday and all of Sunday off from the practice field, but will be back in action on Monday afternoon at 4 p.m.

Photos from Saturday's practice:


DE Coach Joe Robinson with DE’s Louis Holmes and D’aundre Reed

OC Sonny Dykes and WR Mike Thomas

DE Ricky Elmore

DB Marquis Hundley

OL Coach Bill Bedenbaugh

WR coach Darrell Wyatt (left) and RB coach Michael Smith (right)

Mike Stoops with Jim Livengood and softball coach Mike Candrea

Arizona radio color man Lamont Lovett, UA Swim & Dive coach Frank Busch, former UA line coach and current Fresno State head coach Pat Hill, and former Wildcat Vinnie Smith

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