Greg Byrne's Wildcat Wednesday
Spring Football: Offense Making Strides
By: Arizona Athletics
Release: April 06, 2007
Photo Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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TUCSON ?- With only a week remaining before the annual Spring Game in Arizona Stadium on April 14, the Arizona football team is making its final preparations after completing a third week of practices on Thursday night.


The Wildcats took to the practice fields at the Jimenez practice facility for a rare 7:30 p.m. workout last evening. The ping of aluminum bats rang through the air at Jerry Kindall Field at Frank Sancet Stadium, immediately west of the practice fields, as the UA baseball team was in the midst of extending its winning streak to 12 games with a 1-0 victory over California. Meanwhile, the football team began making some noise of its own, with a pad-popping controlled scrimmage, which was closed to media and fans.


Shorter than most spring or fall scrimmages, last night’s scrimmage was an efficient workout that left head coach Mike Stoops pleased with the progress the team has made this spring, but perhaps more importantly, the direction the Wildcats are headed in.


“We’ve got a great thing going on,” Stoops told his players as he addressed them following practice.


The scrimmage was highlighted by an inspired offensive unit that is thirsting to put points on the scoreboard come fall. While much of the chatter surrounding spring practices has been about the Wildcats’ passing attack, it is the ground game that Arizona hopes to impose on opponents. Chris Jennings sparked the team’s first scoring drive of the evening with back-to-back carries that put the UA defense on its heals. Jennings burst through a hole and scampered 20 yards to pick up a first down, the got the handoff on the next play as he hammered up the middle for nine yards, which prompted center Blake Kerley to yell, “can’t stop the run!” as he hustled back to the huddle.


The combo of runs set up the passing game, as Willie Tuitama took the next snap from the shotgun and found Anthony Johnson running free the to the corner of the endzone on a fade route for an 11-yard touchdown pass.


Two offensive series’ later, the offensive attack struck again. In an offense known to distribute the football to an array of targets, seldom-used H-back Brandon Lopez slipped out of the backfield to catch a Tuitama pass, and then raced 28 yards to the endzone untouched.


 On the next series, the offense displayed more of its physical, hard-nosed style to set up another score. Faced with a third-and-two, Tyler Lyon tossed the ball to Jennings on a sweep to the left side. With his offensive line in front of him, Jennings motored down the sideline for a pickup of 20 yards. Jennings found the ball in his hands on the next play, as Lyon dumped the ball off to the senior in the flats, who then turned up field and used a stiff-arm and Bobby McCoy block to gain 15 yards.


Later in the drive, Lyon and Jennings would connect again. This time, Jennings slipped out of the backfield on a wheel route, while Lyon stepped up in the pocket and delivered a perfect pass to the endzone for a 20-yard touchdown strike.


On the final drive, Tuitama and the Wildcat offense would find the endzone for a fourth time. With Tuitama back in with the first team offense, he found classmate Mike Thomas with a step on cornerback Marquis Hundely. Tuitama lofted a fade pass to the endzone, where Thomas hauled it in for a 14-yard score, capping the evening workout.


Stoops was pleased with the offensive performance, which was as sharp and efficient as it has been all spring.


“If we can give our quarterbacks time, guys will be open,” Stoops said to his team. “This offense is very diverse, but we still have to win up front.”


“I feel good about how we are going into summer,” Stoops added. “We’ve had a very good spring, and now we need to get bigger, faster and stronger this summer.”


The Wildcats will have the weekend off before concluding spring practices with five workouts in six days, including regular practices Monday-Thursday starting at 4 p.m., and then the Spring Game on Saturday.


While the weekend will be free of practice, Stoops made sure the players understood the importance of utilizing the weekend to stay on top of academics and keeping out of off-the-field trouble over the weekend.


He concluded his address to the team with a message that related to the players decisions and relationships off the field as much as it did to their work on the field: “The best TEAM always wins. I can guarantee you that.”



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