TUCSON--UA head coach Mike Stoops welcomed back players Wednesday on official reporting day to signal the start of fall camp and the 2005 Wildcat football campaign.
One pleasing factor for Stoops, however, was that the entire team already had been in town participating in voluntary summer workouts, including freshmen and newcomers, many of whom took advantage of new NCAA policies to attend their first classes during summer school.
"This is obviously an exciting time for everybody associated with any college or any team. Everyone is full of hope and optimism... we certainly are," Stoops said to open a news conference held with local media.
"The reason for that is the way we finished last year and carried that over through spring ball and the summer. Our kids did a phenomenal -- unbelievable -- job with their summer workouts on their own, and that tells me we're developing the right attitude," he said.
UA opens fall camp with its first practice at 2:15 p.m. Thursday and will spend the first few days in partial orientation mode until two-a-days commence next Wednesday. Newcomers, particularly, and the whole team will engage in various meetings with academic personnel, compliance directors, dormitory representatives, life skills program leaders and others on campus to get the educational and personal foundations for the new year set.
The football part of it, however, drew Stoops focus in a big way. "We've put ourselves in position to have some success. Executing at critical times was a problem last year and I think we have a better understanding of what we're doing on both sides of the ball and in the kicking game. I think we have better, or more experienced, players doing it," he said.
The Cats open the season on national television Friday, Sept. 2, at Utah.
WILDCAT NOTES... Stoops was asked how he felt about Arizona being picked for eighth place in the Pac-10 preseason media poll, and quipped, "It's better than 10th," last year's selection for UA ... Sophomore cornerback/wide receiver B.J. Dennard was cited by Stoops as one of the team's best athletes. "We have to get him on the field. He's good enough to start. It he beats out a guy at the 'X' receiver position, he'll be the starting receiver. If he beats out one of our corners, he'll be a starting cornerback. He's good enough to start on offense and defense" ... The coach said the quarterback work in camp would not be spread out too thin, indicating sophomore Richard Kovalcheck would get the reps with the No. 1 unit, and junior Adam Austin and true freshman Willie Tuitama would share the practice repetitions with the No. 2 group. "We have to have a solid No. 2," Stoops said, and also told reporters he felt any of the three could handle what he expected to be a more explosive attack in 2005 ... Senior offensive lineman Kili Lefotu, who worked some at center in spring ball, is likely to return to guard in camp, Stoops said. Lefotu has 29 career starts, all at guard or tackle ... The wide receiving corps received Stoops early pick as one of the top units on the team behind the secondary led by senior safeties Darrell Brooks and Lamon Means and sophomore corners Antoine Cason and Wilrey Fontenot. Stoops cited receivers Syndric Steptoe, B.J. Vickers, Dennard, Anthony Johnson, Mike Jefferson and true freshman Michael Thomas as those who should give the Cats a deep group that will help put more oomph in the passing game...