Aug. 6, 2011
TUCSON, Ariz. - With the season opener exactly four weeks away, the Arizona football team kicked up the intensity level a few more notches on Saturday morning as players strapped on the shoulder pads for the first time during the 2011 training camp.
For the third day in a row, the Wildcats turned in a two-hour morning workout at the Rincon Vista Complex. Saturday's practice was clearly the most physical of the three to date, spotlighted by two different altercations between offensive and defensive players.
As coaches pointed out, the altercations were signs of the competition ramping up on the field. Toughness is something they hope to gain from the grueling, combative nature of Saturday's practice and the ones leading up to the opener against Northern Arizona on Sept. 3.
"I like the way our kids are competing," Head Coach Mike Stoops told the media after practice. "I don't want to see anyone get hurt, but that tells me they are competing. I think our toughness as a team needs to improve all the way through. In tough situations, I don't think we responded the way we needed to against great teams a year ago."
Three days in to camp, the offense and defense have both shown positive progress, with plenty of room for improvement still to come. Coaches are still working to implement plays and schemes that best utilize the talent on the field.
One noticeable change was sophomore Jack Baucus moving from tight end to offensive tackle. The position change will help add depth to a young offensive line, and will suit the physical talents of Jack, who will join his brother Mickey Baucus with the line unit.
At the tight end position, Arizona can utilize junior Taimi Tutogi, who brings a unique set of potential running back skills with a strong build to go with his blocking skills. Junior college transfer Drew Robinson saw increased reps at the true tight end position with the first unit, while freshman Michael Cooper got more reps with the second unit on Saturday.
As camp progresses, the depth chart will become less fluid. But for now, the focus is on seeing who can earn spots across the board as the offense and defense begin to take shape.
"We're a better team today than we were yesterday," Stoops told his players after practice. "We have to be all-in as a team. We can't make excuses; we have to make adjustments."
Perhaps the highlight of Saturday's action once again came in the two-minute drill to close practice.
The defense recorded a sack to force a third-and-16 for quarterback Nick Foles and the offense. On the third down play, Foles scrambled to his right and fired a strike to receiver Dan Buckner on the sideline, who hauled in the pass for a 20-yard gain.
With a fresh set of downs, Foles went back to the air on the next play when he found Juron Criner deep over the top of the defense. Criner made a diving catch at the five-yard line, which eventually set up Alex Zendejas' successful 23-yard field with just a few seconds remaining on the clock.
The Wildcats will train for the fourth straight day on Sunday morning at the Rincon Vista Complex. Single workouts will also be held Monday and Tuesday mornings, before the team takes Wednesday off to prepare for its annual trip to Fort Huachuca, which begins on Thursday, Aug. 11.
Arizona football season tickets and flex packs are on sale now. Be sure to check out everydownbeardown.com for an interactive ticket promotion that includes video highlights, ticket information and seating diagrams.
Wildcat Club members and season ticket holders will have the opportunity to purchase individual game tickets before the general public. Wildcat Club members can purchase starting on Saturday, Aug. 6. Season ticket holders can purchase starting on Aug. 10. Visit everydownbeardown.com for all the details.