March 24, 2011
TUCSON, Ariz. - With most of the local attention on March Madness and the Arizona men's basketball team's run to the Sweet 16, Arizona football somewhat quietly kicked of 2011 Spring Football back home in Tucson on Wednesday afternoon.
The Wildcats, fresh off a third-straight bowl appearance last December, hit the field for the first of 15 potential practices allotted by the NCAA in the spring. The coming weeks will provide coaches some quality time to evaluate players and positions as the program retools for the inaugural 2011 Pac-12 season this fall.
Plenty of familiar faces hit the field, notably on offense where leadership is expected to be strong with seniors Nick Foles and Juron Criner returning on offense. A bevy of other returning players, including Keola Antolin, David Douglas and others helped make the first day of spring ball an easy transition as the team hit the ground running with what looked like a mid-season practice, minus the full pads.
New faces were also seen across the field, not the least of which was assistant coach Robert Anae, who assumed the offensive line and run-game coordination duties for his first official practice with the Wildcats. On the other side of the ball, Ryan Walters, a defensive graduate assistant a year ago, worked with the defensive backs in his first practice as a recently appointed defensive backs coach.
In the coming days, players will put on the pads and the contact and competition will ramp up. The Wildcats are scheduled to hold three scrimmages this spring, highlighted by the Spring Game on Saturday, April 16, which will be open to the public.
Arizona will return to the practice field again on Friday afternoon, followed by a Saturday morning workout. Next week, a Monday-Wednesday-Friday scheduled will lead into the first scrimmage of the spring on Saturday, April 2.