March 14, 2011
The University of Arizona football team will open its spring 2011 campaign next week on campus, with Mike Stoops welcoming back a group of 44 lettermen and 12 returning starters.
Spring drills open Monday the 21st, with Monday-Wednesday-Friday-Saturday sessions slated each week for four weeks, except for the Friday before the April 16 spring game. Normally the schedule is altered somewhat during the process, because of class schedules, weather or other factors.
Stoops' 2011 cluob will be marked by senior leadership at quarterback -- three of them in Nick Foles, Matt Scott and Bryson Beirne -- and outstanding skill position players, notably receivers Juron Criner, David Douglas and transfer Dan Buckner (Texas) on the outside.
Re-tooling an offensive line that graduated all five starters will be a key for newcomer line coach Robert Anae. He's joined by two other first-year Wildcat coaches, Joe Salave'a with the defensive line and secondary coach Ryan Walters.
The Cats return to solo leadership at the coordinator spots, with linebackers coach Tim Kish taking over single duties on defense after sharing a year with departed DBs coach Greg Brown, and backs coach Seth Littrell assuming the solo role on offense after sharing last year with OL coach Bill Bewdenbaugh, who also departed.
UA's strength in the secondary will be a focus for first-year mentor Walters, elevated after a year as a grad assistant. He'll be working to solidy a lineup from among half a dozen outstanding performers including Robert Golden, Trevin Wade, Adam Hall, Marquis Flowers, Shaquille Richardson and Jonathan McKnight, among others.
Kish brings back his starting unit intact at the LB corps with Paul Vassallo, Derek Earls and Jake Fischer, while ends coach Jeff Hammerschmidt will have to develop some take-over guys for departed stars Brooks Reed and Ricky Elmore, both positioned for spots in the April NFL Draft.
Salave'a has more depth than some coaches, with Justin Washington, Sione Tuihalamaka, Willie Mobley, Chris Merrill, Dominique Austin and some younger guys expected to contend for major roles up front on the inside.
On the other side, inside receivers coach Garret Chachere will work on a pecking order including David Roberts, Richard Morrison, Terrence Miller and Garic Wharton, while outside receivers coach Dave Nichol adds reshirt freshmen Austin Hill and Tyler Slavin to the mix. Douglas has played inside and out and could factor at either role. UA will have a superb receiving corps.
Littrell will test mid-year juco TE Drew Robinson against returning soph Jack Baucus at tight end, and figure out how H-back Taimi Tutogi can best help the backfield. Senior running back Keola Antolin and junior Greg Nwoko figure to lead a group back there that also includes some younger talent in Daniel Jenkins and Kylan Butler.
QB coach Frank Scelfo will work to make potential all-time Arizona passer Nick Foles a more complete and consistent threat. Notions of reshirting Scott and letting Beirne take over the No. 2 spot have been mentioned as well. The Cats have mid-year freshman Daxx Garman and redshirt Cam Allerheiligen in the mix also.
Anae's task is perhaps the most daunting, although UA's young linemen have outstanding potential. Tackles Mickey Baucus, Fabbians Ebbelle, Trent Spurgeon and Shane Zink; and guards Chris Putton, Carter Lees, Trace Biskin, Jake Baratz and Eric Bender-Ramsay all could fight for spots. Junior center Kyle Quinn is expected to battle mid-year transfer Addison Bachman at center.