TUCSON ?C The University of Arizona football team held its sixth practice of its 2007 Fall Camp on Monday night, with a two hour and forty five minute practice at the Rincon Vista Complex. Like each of the previous practices, the Wildcats worked through routine drills, including individual, group, special teams, 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 segments.
From the start of 7-on-7 action, it was a day of big plays for both sides of the ball. Willie Tuitama wasted no time giving the offense the upper hand early, as he connected with Anthony Johnson on a deep out route for 15-yards. On the next snap, Mike Thomas hauled in a sharply thrown ball in traffic down the middle of the field for a 30-yard gain. Later, Tuitama found David Roberts for a pickup of 12 yards and went back to Thomas a few plays later for 15 more yards. In all, Tuitama completed his first nine attempts, and 12 of 14 overall.
The defense got its share of big plays as Kris Heavner took over the controls. On his second snap, Heavner threaded a pass deep over the middle to Rod Rivera, who appeared to snag the ball, but Cam Nelson lowered a shoulder into the ball and forced it loose.
After a pair of completions, Heavner looked for Delashaun Dean on the left side of the field, but Xavier Kelley dropped back into his zone responsibility and picked off the pass. Four plays later, Heavner again looked in Deanˇ?s direction, but was again picked off, this time by Corey Hall.
Tyler Lyon finished the drill at quarterback, and quickly found a favorite target in freshman Devin Veal. On the first play, Lyon hooked up with Veal who made a nice catch while keeping his feet inbounds for gain of 27 yards. Two plays later, Lyon put the ball in Vealˇ?s hands again for five more yards.
To start 11-on-11 competition, the defense put the pressure on the offense right away. On the first play, Anotine Cason blitzed from his corner position to force Tuitama out of the pocket. The play was allowed to continue, but Cason likely would have finished the sack in live action. In the next five plays, the defense forced two incompletions, and dropped Xavier Smith for a two-yard loss on a short pass.
That is when the offense decided to strike back. Tuitama let the ball fly on the next play, finding Terrell Reese down the field for a 30-yard completion. Two plays later, Chris Jennings found a seem for a 10-yard gain on the ground, before Tuitama went back to the air on the next play, when he connected with Dean for a 25-yard gain.
However, two plays later, momentum swung back to the defense. As Tuitama looked for tight end A.J. Simmons over the middle, Ronnie Palmer stepped in front of the pass for an interception and would have gone untouched the other way into the endzone for a touchdown. The defense continued to crank up the pressure, as Jason Parker got into the backfield while the secondary held its coverage for a sack.
The offense began to get back on track with the short passing game, as Tuitama completed five yard passes to Johnson and Jennings, and then a seven-yarder to Roberts. Heavner kept things going as he came in on the next snap, finding Rivera open for 15 yards.
The defense then reasserted itself, forcing Heavner into three straight incompletions. Then, Dˇ?Aundre Reed got pressure on Heavner for what would have been another sack in live action on the quarterback.
But like the rest of practice, the offense would not give in. The white jerseys went to Thomas on a reverse for a gain of seven yards to the left side. The offense called seemingly the same exact play on the next snap, just to the right side this time, where Thomas found the corner sealed for a touchdown as he outraced the defense down the sideline.
The offense wasnˇ?t done, however, as on the very next play they found the endzone again. This time Tuitama went back to the air, hooking up with Johnson behind the defense for a 50-yard touchdown pass.
To close practice, the team worked through several short yardage plays (3rd down and 1). Yaniv Barnett stuffed Jennings for a loss on the first play. On the second play, Xavier Smith found a crease and surged ahead for five yards, converting a first down. Tuitama threw incomplete on the third play, before Jennings found a crease behind the line for a gain of six yards on the final play.
The Wildcats are scheduled to practice again tomorrow night at 5:30 p.m. at the Rincon Vista Practice. They will then hold the first two-a-day of the ˇ?07 camp on Thursday, with a morning and an evening session. As always, times and locations of all practices is subject to change due to weather and field conditions.
- The Wildcats are now 6-for-6 in scheduling practices to allow for a complete dayˇ?s work with no weather delays.
- Arizona Director of Athletics was on hand for much of Tuesdayˇ?s practice, watching from the sidelines.
- Wide receiver Terrell Turner sat out Tuesdayˇ?s practice for precautionary reasons with a minor ligament sprain in his thumb. "Sat out" may not tell the story, however, as he was very active in listening in on plays called in the offensive huddle and communicating with the quarterbacks and receivers.
- After a minor sprain earlier in the week, Nate Ness practiced for the second straight day.
- Kicker Jason Bondzio has shown improved leg strength throughout camp thus far. During pre-practice work, he made consecutive field goals from 52 yards with some room to spare. In live kicking drills, he made 2-of-3 attempts, converting from 30 and 39 yards, while pulling a 35-yarder to the right. Fellow kicker Alex Zendejas also made 2-of-3 attempts (made 37 and 39, missed 32).
- Passing numbers from 7-on-7s: Tuitama (12-14), Heavner (6-10, 2 INTs), Lyon (3-3)
- Passing numbers from 11-on-11: Tuitama (12-16, INT, TD), Heavner (1-4)
Head Coach Mike Stoops
"Today was another positive day. We are moving in the right direction. Each day we gain a little more confidence and have better execution."
"Weˇ?re doing a lot of good things running the football. Thatˇ?s a positive for us from a defensive standpoint, because it is making us play physical."
Cornerback Antoine Cason
On matching up with UAˇ?s wide receivers on a daily basis:
"They have improved tremendously. They are getting off the ball better and running sharper routes. They are much more competitive right now."
On the play of Willie Tuitama and the development of the offense:
"We feel real good with Willie at quarterback in this offense. He has played the position for two years. We just have to keep him up and healthy. We can have a very good offense."