Greg Byrne's Wildcat Wednesday
Talented Secondary Sets Tone on Defense
By: Arizona Athletics
Release: August 08, 2006
Photo Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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TUCSON, Ariz. ?- The University of Arizona football team entered its second week of Fall Camp with another solid and efficient practice Monday evening at the Rincon Vista Complex.


In only shoulder pads and helmets again, the team worked through its basic daily drills, including individual, group, 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 segments.


While the numbers may not be indicative of it, particularly in the 7-on-7 passing period, the defense asserted itself throughout the practice. Willie Tuitama completed eight of 11 passes in the skeleton drill, but had passes broken up by junior corner Antoine Cason and junior linebacker Dane Krogstad. Krogstad also broke up a pass from Adam Austin, who finished two of five throwing.


In the team segment to close practice, the defense remained stout, led by safety Michael Klyce, who intercepted an Adam Austin pass. Later in the session, the defensive front got pressure on Austin, forcing him out of the pocket and causing the play to be blown dead.


Defensive coordinator Mark Stoops has been pleased with the progress of the defense, particularly the secondary. He has also been pleased with how the team has responded after losing its senior captain, Darell Brooks, after the 2005 season.

Top: Head coach Mike Stoops with Michael Johnson.                           

Middle: Antoine Cason

Bottom: Michael Klyce and Cam Nelson.


“I think it does put a little more pressure on the guys to assume the leadership roles and become more vocal,” Stoops said of his secondary. “I like the way things are shaping up for us right now.”


One of the players Stoops is counting on to emerge in that leadership role is strong safety Michael Johnson.


“I think Michael has the potential to have a big, big year,” Stoops said of Johnson who emerged as the starter midway through the 2005 season. “He is a great player and is only getting better.”


With starters Cason and Wilrey Fontenot at the corners, and Johnson at strong safety, the one spot to fill is that of the departed Brooks. One of the most heated battles of any position in camp has been for the free safety spot. The top candidates are junior Dominic Patrick, sophomore Brandon Tatum and junior college transfer Nate Ness.


“I would say that Dom (Patirck) has been the best to this point,” Stoops said of who has the upper hand. “He and Brandom Tatum. They have the most experience since they got the reps in spring practice. Nate is a very good player and he is continuing to learn. I think all three of them can be very good players.”


There is less uncertainty at the corner positions, but the position was a point of emphasis during recruiting last year, as the staff brought in three players who could step in if needed this year. Devin Ross and Cam Nelson have both worked with the second team in practices to date, and a third was added to the mix today as Michael Turner was officially cleared and allowed to practice, along with defensive end D-aundre Reed.


“It’s great to have him with us,” Stoops said of the 5-11 corner back. “I didn’t get to see it because I was working with the defense during ?'middle’, but he had an interception during one-on-one’s.”


While veterans such as Fontenot have no plans to lose their starting spots, they have noticed the talent and work ethic of the new players.


“They are all performing real well,” Fontenot commented. “Probably better than newcomers usually do. They all have great instincts.”


The Wildcats will be back out at Rincon Vista for practice number five of Fall Camp. Practice is scheduled for 6 p.m., but is subject to change.


NOTES: For a fourth straight evening, weather conditions were nearly perfect for the two and a half hour workout ... Approximately 75 fans attended the practice ... D’aundre Reed will wear uniform No. 83, while Michael Turner will wear No. 2 ... Shawn Best has switched sides and jersey numbers. He will now work with the offensive line and wear No. 79 ... Several players have been dinged up in the first few days of practice, but head coach Mike Stoops said that everyone just “has a few dings” and will not miss significant time, if any. He went on to add “We have got to have guys ready for Sept. 2 (season opener versus BYU in Arizona Stadium). That’s when it matters. Right now we can get reps for some of the younger guys" ... Earlier in the day, an Associated Press article mentioned that former UA running back Mike Bell has been named the Denver Bronco’s No. 1 running back. Head coach Mike Stoops had the following to say about the news: “I’m really happy for Mike. My brother Bob (head coach at Oklahoma) was there a week ago visiting before they started their camp. He said that Mike Shanahan (Broncos’ coach) was really impressed with Mike. He has great talent. He really fits well into their system. Mike is a great zone runner. He really hits the holes quickly. I knew he had a chance to do well there.”



Remaining Fall Football Practice Schedule


Tuesday             Aug. 8        6 p.m.

Wednesday       Aug. 9        6 p.m.

Thursday           Aug. 10      8 a.m., 6 p.m.

Friday                 Aug. 11      6 p.m.

Saturday            Aug. 12      8 a.m., 6 p.m.

Sunday              Aug. 13      --

Monday              Aug. 14      8 a.m., 6:15 p.m.

Tuesday             Aug. 15      5:45 p.m.

Wednesday       Aug. 16      8 a.m., 6:15 p.m.

Thursday           Aug. 17      5:45 p.m.

Friday                 Aug. 18      8 a.m., 6:15 p.m.

Saturday            Aug. 19      Meet the Team,

                                             Evening scrimmage

Monday              Aug. 21      Classes begin

Monday              Aug. 28      Mike Stoops’

                                             weekly news conference

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