Aug. 16, 2001
TUCSON - The Arizona football team wrapped up the two-a-days portion of its fall training camp Thursday and has less than two weeks to go before its season opener at San Diego State Aug. 30.
After a 90-minute scrimmage Wednesday evening, the Cats were back out in full pads Thursday for two workouts, the last such day in camp. The team will hold one practice Friday afternoon, a walk-through and special teams call-out Saturday morning and then close fall camp with another more intensive scrimmage Saturday night.
UA quarterbacks had a good morning in skeleton passing drills, combining to complete 17-of-23 passes in short-yardage situations against the defensive pass coverage package. Jason Johnson (6-of-7, 43 yards), Cliff Watkins (6-of-9, 56 yards) and John Rattay (5-of-7, 60 yards) each had good moments.
Whip linebacker Matt Molina knocked down two of Rattay's throws, and freshman defensive back or rover Kirk Johnson broke up a Watkins' throw. Each quarterback managed to hit a receiver in the end zone.
Arizona players begin UA classes and start a regular-season practice schedule on Monday.
Saturday night is Fan Appreciation Night at Arizona Stadium, with an autorgraph session at 6:30 p.m. and remarks by head coach John Mackovic at 7:55. The team will scrimmage from 8 to 9:25 p.m.
Thursday's remarks from Arizona Head Coach John Mackovic -
On the offensive line: "We are a whole different group with Darren Safranek and Makoa Freitas back in there. They both have experience, and they are tall with long arms. Our pass rushers have not had the same success against the offensive line as they did during spring practice."
"Then you add Reggie Sampay, Kevin Barry, who is a veteran up there, and Steven Grace at center, and that looks like an offensive line that ought to do great things. Grace is the best center I have ever coached. He is strong, smart, and he finishes his blocks. He is a great player, and I have not had a college center better than he is."
"The key backups who are most in the picture right now are John Vorsheck and Brandon Phillips. Vorsheck has trained at both guard and tackle, while Phillips can play either tackle. Our eighth player is Keoki Fraser, who is our next center. Vorsheck also will handle the snaps on PAT/field goals, and he has turned into a very capable snapper."
"Matt Wiegand has some back problems, but we hope that won't affect him too much. He is a natural center who has a quick arm and a quick snap. He came into camp and really picked things up."
"We have a nice group of five freshman on the offensive line who have shown that they can compete, and they will comprise the nucleus for the offensive line in the next few years."
On the tight ends: "One of our more promising prospects, Carlos Williams, has moved from tight end to defensive end. When we had some injuries, he volunteered to go over there and help at the defensive end position."
"James Hugo has good experience, but the surprise of the fall has been Justin Levasseur. He is the fastest of any player in that group, and he caught my eye in yesterday's scrimmage. He ran good routes, he caught the ball, and he blocked very well. Justin had the quickness in the spring, but since then, he has improved in his blocking. He is able to get through coverage, and he is strong and more polished as a blocker."
"Steve Fleming is a natural at the position, but he has a high ankle sprain, and he will be out for at least another week. Tyrone Brown also has moved from tight end to defensive end."
"Aaron Higginbotham was under size, and there was no way that he could participate as a lineman. Peter Hansen continues to be one of those stories about a guy who blocked a field goal and who could have lived on that forever. But, Peter has worked hard and is becoming a total football player."
"The starting lineup for the first game is long from being set, but I can see Hugo and Levasseur as being interchangeable. We will probably travel with four or maybe five tight ends because we have worked to build them into the program in terms of both the running and passing games."
On the wide receivers: "(Bobby) Wade, (Malosi) Leonard, (Andrae) Thurman and (Gary) Love are the four guys who give us the most consistency in terms of knowing what to do, where to go and being able to get there and catch the ball. Malosi will work at the split end, Bobby as the flanker, and Andrae and Gary work at the slots. Our wide receiver corps has improved a great deal from the spring. We dropped a lot of balls in the spring, but they really have made some dramatic improvements."
"Lance Relford, Ricky Williams, Brandon Marshall and Nick Fleury are the next four players that we will work in the three deep. We practice two deep at most positions, but we practice three deep at wide receiver and running back."
On the quarterbacks: "Jason Johnson continues to understand the why and the when. He is trying hard, and he is going to be a player who is going to make things happen. He is smart, and that's important because the quarterbacks call the formations and the protections. Right now, the quarterbacks are getting even duty, but Jason will start getting the bulk of the work after this week to where he is getting at least 65 percent of the work."
"All three quarterbacks (Johnson, Watkins and Rattay) have done very well, and John (Rattay) has improved the most since spring practice. Cliff (Watkins) was a little ahead of him after the spring, but John is about even with Cliff at this point. Rattay delivers the ball on time and more accurately than he did in the spring, and he is reading the plays quicker and doing a much better job of getting the ball to his targets."
"Nic (Costa) has a lot to learn, and it was unfair for anyone to expect him to come in and flourish right away. He has learned well so far, and he is getting comfortable with what we're doing and why everything happens."
On the running backs: "It is nice to have Leo (Mills) back, but he would have benefited by being here in the spring. He is working hard, and he had his best practice of the fall last night."
"Clarence Farmer is a force, and he is ready to go. Clarence is a terrific receiver, and he catches the ball away from his body."
"Mike Bell is a young player, and he did a nice job in the scrimmage last night. He learns well, and we could get him ready to play in the first game. I anticipate that he will see action somewhere down the line this season."
"Tremaine Cox, Anthony Fulcher and Mike Detwiler have each taken snaps at fullback, and each has his role. Detwiler can be a tough runner because he runs right over people, and he is a good blocker. Cox and Fulcher are similar in that they are quick at running routes, and they can catch the ball and make breaks in the open field. Cox, Fulcher and Bell all have the chance to be good receivers."
On the defensive ends: "We really miss Eli (Wnek) out there, but he is working hard so he can be ready when he comes back. On the first day of practice, he was the first one on the field. He hits the sleds every day, and he does everything he can because he wants to make his mark when he returns. Losing Eli was a setback because he gives us experience, and he has a good background at that position."
"Johnny Jackson had some back problems at the beginning of camp, but he has been a pleasant surprise this fall. He had some ups and downs during spring practice, but he has since taken the lead, and he is going hard."
"Carlos Williams moved from tight end, and he is a natural player for a big man. He can jump, roll and has nice balance. Isaac Watts is another young player who has worked hard. But, the guy to keep your eye on is No. 82 (Nicholas Kredit). He has a lot of athletic ability, and he has done a nice job so far. He is tall, smart, and he can move very well."
"Fata (Avegalio) and Kevin (Barry) had a head-on collision last night in the scrimmage, and both had slight concussions. Fata will be out for a week, and Kevin will be out for a few more days."
"All of the ends can play both sides, but our studs play the right side, and the ends play the left side. Alex (Luna) is back and ready to go, and Austin (Uku) has done a nice job."
On the linebackers: "At the whip, we have Joe Siofele and Matt Molina. We are solid at this position. Joe is going to be our next outstanding defensive player. He is a good linebacker, he is smart in what he does, and he enjoys the contact. Matt was one of our most improved players heading into the fall."
"At inside linebacker, Lance (Briggs) is Lance. He had a great tackle in the open field that made a 50-yard play into a 12-yard play in last night's scrimmage. He is one of the rare players who can run from sideline to sideline. He enters the hole, makes contact, and he makes a lot of tackles."
"Shelton Ross has been out with a bruised thigh, but he is anxious to get back. Ray Wells is doing a nice job, and he has a firm hold on the position. But, Shelton is a senior, and he will get on the field."
"We moved Kirk Johnson from defensive back to linebacker for now, and he is a freshman who can play this year. He has a real nose for the football, and he should be a stalwart on special teams as well."
On the defensive tackles: "Ben Alualu is ineligible, and he is no longer with us. At this point, I don't think that will change."
"Young Thompson has done well this fall. Anthony Thomas is back, and I saw nice things from him last night in the scrimmage, and Keoni Fraser is a veteran in that group. If everyone stays healthy, we will have a lot of size and punch up front."
On the secondary: "We have a nice group of players in the secondary. I was a little disappointed with their conditioning because they struggled the most in the mile run, along with the receivers, but they have worked to make up for that."
"Michael Jolivette is a terrific corner who can cover and who loves the competition. On the other side, it's a bit of a toss up as to what will happen. David Hinton and Jermaine Chatman are really battling it out. David has taken most of the snaps. Anthony Banks is working hard to finish some work from the second semester so he can be eligible. David Laudermilk also has done very well. So, we will have four, maybe five corners."
On the safeties: "Jarvie (Worcester) and Clay (Hardt) are a terrific tandem, and both will play. I don't think you can sit either one of them. Both have experience, and both know the system very well. You also have Brandon Nash, Zaharius Johnson and Tony Wingate, who is a good young player."
"Danny Perry is out for the season, which is disappointing because he is a tough guy who loves to play, and we are going to miss him on special teams."
On the special teams unit: "Sean (Keel) just picked up right where he left off. Bobby Gill has been the most improved in terms of field goal kicking, kicking off and punting, but he doesn't quite have the consistency. Ramey (Peru) has made a lot of improvements. He has a good get-away time, and he has been consistent. Ryan Slack proves to be a good kick-off man, but he needs to develop into a stronger player in the PAT/field goal area."
"If a kicker can kick it into the end zone, then kick it to the end zone. The farther someone can kick it, the better."
"On the punt returns, we will put one guy back there. Right now, it looks like Bobby Wade back there and Malosi Leonard because he has good, sure hands. All of the receivers go back there during practice. We have Bobby Wade and Gary Love on the kick-off return team, but you will also see Andrae Thurman, Lance Relford, Mike Bell, Tremaine Cox, Anthony Fulcher and Leo Mills back there as well. We train three deep on the punt and kick-off return teams during camp, but we will trim that to two deep during the season."
Mackovic's general outlook for the season: "I really believe that the University of Arizona is one of the premier athletic programs in the country, and there is no reason that we cannot have one of the top football programs in the nation. We cannot consider ourselves to be the underdogs because that is a role that one can only play for so long. My priority is to put a good football team out on the field that people will enjoy watching."