TUCSON--Coach Mike Stoops was upbeat in a mid-day news conference and equally enthused following the Wildcats' initial preparations for the 2007 with the start of spring practice Wednesday.
"I'm really pleased with our intensity and the way we came out ready to work," Stoops said after the late afternoon practice session in shorts. "There are a lot of things to clean up, and obviously the defense is way in front of the offense. I like the way our kids are going about it. We're a lot quicker, a lot stronger and a lot faster," he said.
The Wildcat defense, which rated fourth in the Pac-10 a year ago and led the league in turnover margin, returns 10 starters and tested the Cats' new spread offense -- to the limit, according to Stoops. "This defense will really test this offense" in drills, which typically fare the top units against each other for many of each practices' individual periods.
Sonny Dykes and WR B.J. Dennard
Stoops said afterward that he felt the new offense "fits our personnel really well.That's (going to be advantageous)."
Junior quarterback Willie Tuitama said the practice field was "a lot different than the play book" in study he's done over the past several months. "You get out here with an offensive and defensive line, and it's way different than study. The tempo is a lot faster."
"We really need him for this offense, and he can help with the leadership we're going to need on the unit," Dykes said. "All the quarterbacks did okay today. We tried to limit the terminology and keep it simple, to encourage our guys to go out and play fast," Dykes said.
* * * *
The team will next practice Friday afternoon, with another session scheduled this Saturday. Spring ball concludes April 14 with the Spring Game. Most other drills are closed to the public and media... Coaches were impressed with redshirt freshman defensive end D'aundre Reed. "He is an exceptional player," ends coach Joe Robinson said. "I don't know what his numbers are in the weight room, but he simply is one of our strongest players, with great leverage." Reed will bolster a corps that should give Robinson his deepest unit in the four years of Stoops' tenure at Arizona... Redshirt freshman defensive tackle Conan Amituanai will move to offensive guard and RS frosh tight end Cody Anderson will move to offensive tackle this spring, Stoops said... UA's offensive depth chart includes a couple of extra positions, 13 in all, thanks to multiple choices in the receiving corps and backfield. Coaches list 'small tight end' and 'small H-back' spots, with starter types like senior receiver Anthony Johnson in the STE spot and junior redshirt B.J. Dennard listed atop small H-backs. All of that centers around UA's new formations in the spread... Finding a solid punter and place kicker to replace departed Nick Folk will be a top priority in spring ball, Stoops said. Top candidates are redshirt freshman punter Keenyn Crier and junior kicker Jason Bondzio...