Aug. 12, 2011
FORT HUACHUCA - A full 24 hours after a lackluster start to practice here at Fort Huachuca, the Arizona football team has responded with two spirited practices in preparation for Saturday's scrimmage on post.
Stoops Quick Take
The Wildcats hit the Warrior/Sentinel practice fields on Thursday evening with noticeably more pep than what they showed in the first practice at this U.S. Army post. The chippiness between offensive and defensive players was noticeable all evening long, and certainly increased the competition despite players not wearing full pads.
Afterward, coach Mike Stoops praised his players for responding after a sloppy morning workout, but cautioned them to make sure the banter between players was in good nature.
"It's good to compete out here, but don't let you're talking become divisive," Stoops said after Thursday night's practice. "We are all on the same team and when we leave this field we are a team. We have to be all-in, even when we're competing against each other at a high level."
The higher energy level carried over into Friday morning's workout. Under cloudy skies and with relatively cool temperatures, the Wildcats donned full pads again and put in two hours of solid preparation for Saturday's scrimmage - the second scheduled through two weeks of camp.
Friday's action was full of big plays on both sides. Offensively, Juron Criner had a handful of highlight reel catches, while fellow receivers Dan Buckner, Tyler Slavin, Gino Crump and Richard Morrisonchipped in their share of big plays.
Defensively, Trevin Wade intercepted a Nick Foles pass intended for Criner, while Shaquille Richardson and Derek Earlsbroke up passes in team drills. Coaches continued to utilize various combinations of players at all levels of the defense, trying to find the best combinations of talent.
Coaches have been impressed with several newcomers on defense. Up front, ends Reggie Gilbert and Dame Ndiaye have contributed as pass rushers with the second and third team defense. At linebacker, Hank Hobson and Rob Hankins have show steady improvement behind the projected starters. And in the secondary, Cortez Johnsonmade his debut at corner on Thursday after having to sit out the first week of camp.
Saturday's scrimmage will give all the younger players competing for playing time an opportunity to show what they have improved on over the first two weeks of camp.
"We want to find guys that can make competitive plays in live situations," Stoops said of Saturday's scrimmage. It's a unique year since we are down four starters from the spring. We are going to rely on some young players to play for us this year. The scrimmage situations can really show us who is ready to play."
One area Stoops hopes to see significant improvement is in the team's tackling. In Tuesday's first scrimmage of camp, tackling was suspect at times at all levels of the defense.
"It's not unusual to be a little sloppy with the tackling in the first scrimmage," Stoops told reporters. "But to be a great defense, I believe you have to be great tacklers. Hopefully we're improved in that area tomorrow."
Saturday's scrimmage will be held at Bujalski Field next to the Barnes Fieldhouse on post. The scrimmage is scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m.
The 2011 season will begin on Saturday, Sept. 3, against Northern Arizona. The game is scheduled for a 7 p.m. kick off at Arizona Stadium. Season tickets and flex packs are available through the McKale Ticket Office (520-621-2287) or online at www.arizonawildcats.com.
Individual game tickets will go on sale to the general public this Saturday, Aug. 13, at 10 a.m. through www.arizonawildcats.com. Tickets can then be purchased in person or by phone through the McKale Ticket office starting on Monday, Aug. 15, at 9 a.m.
Visit www.everydownbeardown.com for complete ticket options.