20070327 Spring Football: Don?t Forget About the Defense - The University of Arizona Official Athletic Site
 
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20070327 Spring Football: Don?t Forget About the Defense
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 03/27/2007
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<P class=MsoNormal style="MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt"><?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" /><st1:City w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on"><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Arial">TUCSON</SPAN></st1:place></st1:City><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Arial"> ? Week two of spring practice began with another physical, full-pad workout at the Jimenez Practice Facility on Monday afternoon. With the majority of the playbooks implemented on both sides of the ball, today&rsquo;s practice offered the UA coaches an opportunity to emphasize more of the intricacies of the schemes.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /><o:p></o:p></SPAN></P> <P class=MsoNormal style="MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt"><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Arial"><o:p> </o:p></SPAN></P> <P class=MsoNormal style="MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt"><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Arial">&ldquo;It was another good day for us,&rdquo; head coach Mike Stoops said following practice as he addressed the media. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m pleased with the way we are practicing and the way we are progressing. We have stayed healthy, which is the key.&rdquo;<o:p></o:p></SPAN></P> <P class=MsoNormal style="MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt"><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Arial"><o:p> </o:p></SPAN></P> <P class=MsoNormal style="MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt"><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Arial">While much of the hype during the first week of practice (at least in the media) was centered on <st1:State w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Arizona</st1:place></st1:State>&rsquo;s new spread, multiple-attack offense, the Wildcat defense has continued to improve and build depth. A unit that forced 26 turnovers a year ago and ranked third in the Pac-10 in scoring defense, the UA defense looks to be just as good, if not much better this coming season.<o:p></o:p></SPAN></P> <P class=MsoNormal style="MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt"><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Arial"><o:p> </o:p></SPAN></P> <P class=MsoNormal style="MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt"><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Arial">Returning are 10 full-time starters, plus several keys reserves who saw significant playing time in the fall of 2006. Among those reserves is safety Mike Klyce, who intercepted three passes late in the season after NFL prospect Michael Johnson went down with a hamstring injury. Klyce joins veterans Antoine Cason and Dominic Patrick working in the first-string defensive backfield. <o:p></o:p></SPAN></P> <P class=MsoNormal style="MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt"><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Arial"><o:p> </o:p></SPAN></P> <P class=MsoNormal style="MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt"><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Arial">Cornerback Wilrey Fontenot is nursing a shoulder injury and is not participating in contact drills this spring, which is allowing junior college transfer Marquis Hundley an opportunity to work with the first team at cornerback. Cam Nelson continues to get significant reps as the Wildcats&rsquo; primary nickel back, while Michael Turner and Brandon Tatum are working in at the corner and safety spots, respectively. <SPAN style="mso-spacerun: yes"> </SPAN><o:p></o:p></SPAN></P> <P class=MsoNormal style="MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt"><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Arial"><o:p> </o:p></SPAN></P> <P class=MsoNormal style="MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt"><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Arial">Despite the talent in the secondary, the front seven could prove to be the heart and sole of the Wildcat defense. With Lionel Dotson out for the spring (shoulder), but providing plenty of vocal and emotional support from the sidelines, redshirt freshman Mana Mikaele is getting reps with the first team unit, joining Yaniv Barnett in the middle. Ends Louis Holmes, Jason Parker and Johnathan Turner return as experienced players with plenty of starting experience. Behind them, redshirt freshmen Ricky Elmore and D&rsquo;aundre Reed look to push for playing time, bringing improved strength and explosiveness off the edge from their respective debuts last August in Fall Camp.<o:p></o:p></SPAN></P> <P class=MsoNormal style="MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt"><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Arial"><o:p> </o:p></SPAN></P> <P class=MsoNormal style="MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt"><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Arial">Perhaps the most experienced unit on the field for <st1:State w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Arizona</st1:place></st1:State> is its linebacking core. Spencer Larsen and Dane Krogstad return as senior starters, and Ronnie Palmer anchors the middle with increased knowledge and confidence.<o:p></o:p></SPAN></P> <P class=MsoNormal style="MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt"><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Arial"><o:p> </o:p></SPAN></P> <P class=MsoNormal style="MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt"><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Arial">&ldquo;Our experience at linebacker is invaluable,&rdquo; Stoops said. &ldquo;Ronnie Palmer is probably our most improved player. He has had a whole season and off-season now to get more comfortable.&rdquo;<o:p></o:p></SPAN></P> <P class=MsoNormal style="MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt"><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Arial"><o:p> </o:p></SPAN></P> <P class=MsoNormal style="MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt"><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Arial">One of the benefits of the new offensive attack is that it is helping the UA defense get a first-hand look at a similar approach to a number of teams on the upcoming schedule.</SPAN></P> <P class=MsoNormal style="MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt"><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Arial"></SPAN> </P> <P class=MsoNormal style="MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt"><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Arial"><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Arial">&ldquo;BYU, <st1:PlaceName w:st="on">Washington</st1:PlaceName> <st1:PlaceType w:st="on">State</st1:PlaceType> and <st1:State w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Oregon</st1:place></st1:State> spread us out like this last year,&rdquo; Larsen said. &ldquo;It is definitely going to help us some seeing this in practice.&rdquo;<o:p></o:p></SPAN><o:p></o:p></SPAN></P> <P class=MsoNormal style="MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt"><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Arial"><o:p> </o:p></SPAN></P> <P class=MsoNormal style="MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt"><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Arial">Defensive coordinator Mark Stoops echoed similar sentiments about the system.<o:p></o:p></SPAN></P> <P class=MsoNormal style="MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt"><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Arial"><o:p> </o:p></SPAN></P> <P class=MsoNormal style="MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt"><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Arial">&ldquo;All I know is when we have played other teams with this offense, it is one of the toughest to prepare for,&rdquo; he said.</SPAN></P> <P class=MsoNormal style="MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt"><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Arial"></SPAN> </P> <P class=MsoNormal style="MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt"><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Arial"><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Arial">&ldquo;This offense is forcing us to work in space,&rdquo; added Larsen. &ldquo;It is making us really focus on tackling and covering in space across the whole field. There is a lot of emphasis on technique.&rdquo;<o:p></o:p></SPAN><o:p></o:p></SPAN></P> <P class=MsoNormal style="MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt"><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Arial"><o:p></o:p></SPAN></P> <P class=MsoNormal style="MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt"><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Arial"><o:p> </o:p></SPAN></P> <P class=MsoNormal style="MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt"><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Arial">The Wildcats will take Tuesday off from the practice field and return on Wednesday for the fifth of 15 practices allowed by the NCAA. The team will practice on Friday afternoon as well, before holding a scrimmage in Arizona Stadium on Saturday. The scrimmage will be open for fans and media, and will start at approximately 10 a.m.<o:p></o:p></SPAN></P> <P class=MsoNormal style="MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt"> </P>
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