Aug. 8, 2002
TUCSON - Arizona's fall rookie camp closed last night with a newcomers' practice under the lights on UA's re-sodded practice fields, and the full team reports Thursday for two-a-day sessions.
"We accomplished a great deal in two days," head coach John Mackovic told reporters after the Wednesday night practice. "We put in our basic offense and defense, how we call things, and the tempo of how we practice. I told the guys that Saturday we'll be going at it much faster. Not necessarily harder, but with more purpose and more quickly," he said.
The full team will hold its first practice Saturday morning. Friday involves more orientation for newcomers and is Media Day for the 2002 Wildcats.
"I'm very pleased with the overall athletic ability in every group," was Mackovic's assessment of the incoming class. "There's good size at each position," he noted, one of coaches' primary efforts during February recruiting. Mackovic and staff were aided in the mini-camp for newcomers by a recruiting class which filled nearly every position, giving the staff an opportunity for full-line work toward the end of each session in shorts.
Mackovic cited punter Danny Baugher and place kicker Tim Folk, two freshmen who bring solid credentials to the UA program and who were effective in kicking drills during the four practices. "I never had a punter and kicker come in at (the level of skill and readiness) those two bring," he said.
Touted freshman quarterback Ryan O'Hara also impressed the coach in the final practice. "Ryan was relaxed more tonight and made some good throws," he said. He'll be part of the work rotation for quarterbacks with senior Jason Johnson and redshirt freshman Nic Costa from the onset of team drills, he said, explaining that the quarterback situation was considerably more solidified than a year ago when none of the four scholarship QBs in camp had game experience. "Ryan will get more work than Nic did last year (as a true freshman)," Mackovic said, noting an established pecking order will assist in planning workloads for Johnson, Costa and O'Hara.
A number of veterans have been in Tucson working out all summer and many were on hand to watch the newcomers the past few days, but official reporting day is today -- when equipment can be issued, players undergo physical examinations and the first team meeting of the year is held.
The Cats will practice at 8:25 a.m. and 7:10 p.m. Saturday, and at 7:10 p.m. Sunday to open fall camp. Each session will be held at UA's Rincon Vista facility on South Tucson Boulevard. Two-a-days will continue Monday through Thursday before a one-practice day Friday.
Arizona was picked to finish eighth by Pac-10 beat writers and broadasters at Pac-10 Football Media Day last week in Los Angeles, but it's not a role embraced by staff and players. Quarterback Johnson told a local television station Tuesday that he expected the Wildcats to finish in the upper division and go to a bowl game. "That's our goal and we're eager to get under way," he said.
Notes...Both practice fields and the playing turf at Arizona Stadium were replaced in early summer... Other projects included expanded and refurbished team and football staff locker rooms and player-lounge areas in McKale Center, increased and re-designed academic services rooms and the computer labs, plus a sizeable improvement of locker room facilities for UA's women's programs... The most likely newcomers who appear likely to hit the depth chart soon are junior college transfer Carl Tuitavuki, a 350-pound defensive tackle, and freshman punter Baugher, but nearly all freshmen drew praise from coaches... Offensive line coach Charlie Dickey, one of the two former Wildcats on the staff (with defensive ends coach Charlie Camp), taught the newcomers UA's fight song, "Bear Down, Arizona" after practice Tuesday... Junior halfback Clarence Farmer was one of several vets at practice Wednesday night, jumping around as if eager to get going... Mackovic said he expected little attrition to the squad, though a few scholarship players left the team after spring ball including freshman center Thomas Stevens and freshman offensive tackle Matt Page...