Greg Byrne's Wildcat Wednesday
Spring Drills Continue as Scrimmage Looms
By: Arizona Athletics
Release: March 29, 2007
Photo Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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TUCSON ?- It may have been a new day, but the fifth practice of the Arizona football team’s spring drills featured more of the same energy and excitement at the Jimenez Practice Facility on Wednesday afternoon. Coaches and players alike continued to work hard, detailing the finer points of the game as the team works towards it first public display on Saturday in Arizona Stadium.


“It was another good day,” head coach Mike Stoops said following practice. “We’re picking things up and gaining more confidence each day.”


Typical of spring practices, players began with individual drills working with their position coaches. On the offensive field, the skill position players worked with the quarterbacks in simple pass and catch drills. While it may be just a simple warm-up drill with the receivers running three-quarter speed fade routes and the QB’s working on their touch, each repetition is closely critiqued by the coaches. On one occasion, an under thrown pass from one of the scout team quarterbacks forced Delashaun Dean to come back to catch the football, which he did. However, it wasn’t good enough for first-year wide receiver coach Darrell Wyatt.


“Come on Dela, go up and get the ball,” Wyatt barked out in a disciplinary tone. “Don’t let it come down to you. Don’t waste reps out here.”


It’s the type of detail that often goes unnoticed until such a play occurs in a game and the pass is batted away by a defender. But on the practice field, the offensive staff has a sense of urgency to not only install the new system, but to make sure every player is fundamentally sound.


While coach Stoops mentioned in his pre-spring press conference that the Wildcats could be throwing as many as 40 or 50 passes per game, there will be a certain emphasis on the running game. Senior running back Chris Jennings is ready to carry the load when called upon.


“For us running backs, we’re running north and south and going 110 percent,” Jennings said.


Jennings knows that the running backs will also get a lot of opportunities to catch the ball out of the backfield, but also predicts that there will be plenty of opportunities to carry the football.


“My job is to just get my hands on the ball and go out and make plays,” he said. “I think we could carry the ball 20-30 times per game.”


First-year runningbacks coach Michael Smith supported Jennings’ estimate of running the ball at least 20 times per game and mentioned he was impressed with Jennings’ adjustments to the new offense.


“I’ve been really impressed with all of our running backs,” Smith said. “They are working hard and had a great offseason. Chris is really standing out right now, but Xavier (Smith) will push him hard.”


Up front, the Wildcat offensive line will be counted on for a big year, providing time to throw in the pocket as well as opening up running lanes for the runningbacks. The Wildcats return all five starters from a year ago, plus several key reserves. Eben Britton and Joe Longacre are leading the way on the right side of the line, while Blake Kerley returns as the team’s top center. On the left side, Daniel Borg has moved out to tackle in place of Peter Graniello, who is being held out of contact drills due to a shoulder injury. At the left tackle spot, James Tretheway is getting a hard look from the coaching staff.


Behind the returning starters, Colin Baxter is getting reps at the center position, with Bill Wacholz and Cody Anderson seeing work at the two tackle spots. Converted defensive lineman Conan Amituanai is getting reps with the second team at left guard, while redshirt freshman Jovon Hayes is backing up Longacre at right guard.


The Wildcats will be back on the practice field on Friday afternoon for their sixth spring practice.


Fans can get their first look of the Wildcat offense this Saturday, as the team will hold an open scrimmage in Arizona Stadium beginning at 10 a.m. Seating will be available in the field level section along the east side of Arizona Stadium.

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