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2007 Football Outlook - Part 1
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 04/02/2007
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Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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Nineteen returning starters among 44 lettermen underscore a key feature of 2007 Arizona Football: the squad has some top-tier experience, with plenty of players well schooled in the Mike Stoops system from its first iteration to this fourth year.

 

Player development and a tough, disciplined style of play are the hallmarks of his system. Stoops recruited able and talented players and then put them to work. His 2007 team will feature upper-class leaders who’ve been through his mill.

 

It’s been a fruitful but not an overnight transformation. Stoops told reporters in spring that he reached an understanding with himself: “I found out I’m not a miracle worker. Everyone thinks they are, but football is an ultimate team game. We’ve had some things that were flawed, and just not good enough. But we’re on the cusp,” was the short version. Putting Arizona football back in contention has taken time.

 

He went out and got some new help this past year, bringing in four coaches to change the complexion of a team that has been without a consistent offensive identity in his tenure. Throwing the ball a bunch out of the multiple spread should bring a new focus to UA ?- notably getting more yards, first downs and points.

 

Adding those simple objectives to a defense that returns 10 starters puts Arizona in solid position for another step forward. Last year’s team was bowl eligible at 6-6 and beat No. 8 California, No. 25 Washington State and a BYU team that went on to finish 11-2 and ranked.  This year’s club should be bowl-bound and beat some ranked teams (Stoops’ teams have done so every year).

 

“I don’t know how much more exciting it could be than to return that many defensive starters on a team that showed it could compete,” Stoops says. “The guys will be able to play freer and more violently across the board.”

 

Another good thing therein is that UA’s new offense gets to work through spring ball against a pretty good defense. That will help, and also will help the defense later when UA opens the year against a team with a version of the spread, BYU.

 

Notable on the defensive side are senior All-American candidates on each unit ?- cornerback Antoine Cason in the secondary, linebacker Spencer Larsen and defensive end Louis Holmes.

 

The club returns a handful of players who have paid new dues to reach fifth-year status and hand the baton to an all-Stoops future at 2007’s close. They’re starters in cornerback Wilrey Fontenot, receiver Anthony Johnson, offensive tackle Peter Graniello, defensive tackle Lionel Dotson and linebacker Dane Krogstad, plus three-year lettermen in defensive end Jason Parker and quarterback Kris Heavner.  That’s it. The rest are all about Mike.

 

This year, exactly what that means should be evident in a big way. UA was bowl eligible in 2006. This year it expects to be bowl bound. Transformation is the word Stoops has used.

 

One thing Arizona needs to do is figure a way to get some points in the fourth period. In its six losses a year ago the Wildcats scored a combined nine points ?- three field goals ?- in the fourth period. That created a boatload of pressure on a good defense.

 

Overview Notes... UA will use the multiple-spread offense and 3-4 defense... Arizona improved by three victories last year, tied for the 23rd best improvement in Division I-A... One thing a new offense should do is help keep the fans interested. They already have been. Stoops helped UA draw its second-best season average of 55,798 last year. Capacity is around 57,400 depending on annual configuration of the Zona Zoo student section ?- which has been jammed with 10,000 red-clad students each of the past two years... Even a little bit of new scoring punch could help Arizona dramatically. The Cats were 105th in I-A in scoring at 16.6 points per game, while holding opponents to 19.6. Just finding another touchdown per game would give UA a +4 margin per contest if that kind of defense can hold up (and there’s no reason it shouldn’t improve)...

 

Next: Quarterbacks

 

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