Aug. 6, 2008
TUCSON — It was again the defense that stood out and impressed Head Coach Mike Stoops as the Wildcats held their third practice of 2008 Fall Camp at Tucson High School on Wednesday morning.
“We are making incredible strides on the defense end,” Stoops said. “We are playing hard and playing with a lot of intensity.”
For the first part of practice, the offense focused on its running game with the pads popping for the first time. The carries were divided equally between Nic Grigsby, Keola Antolin, Nick Booth and Xavier Smith.
Today the seven-on-seven drill had half the plays being run inside the ten yard line as both the offensive and defensive units worked on goal line situations. Senior Willie Tuitama took the majority of reps during this session. He finished 18 for 23 for 141 yards and three touchdowns. He also threw an interception to safety Cam Nelson. The leading receiver was junior Terrell Turner who caught three passes for 36 yards and a touchdown. Bryson Beirne completed five of six passes for 51 yards.
The 11-on-11 again saw Tuitama take the most of the reps. He completed 16 of 23 passes for 168 yards and a touchdown, he threw on the first play to sophomore tight end Rob Gronkowski. A freshman all-american a year ago, Gronkowski finished with two catches for 50 yards and the lone touchdown. Today marked the third consecutive day that sophomore Kaniela Tuipulotu batted a ball down at the line of scrimmage.
Beirne completed one of four passes for 14 yards, while freshman Matt Scott completed seven of nine passes for 54 yards. He hooked up with redshirt freshman David Roberts three times for 21 yards. Freshman defensive end Dominique Austin batted a ball at the line of scrimmage.
The final session of the day was 11-on-11 work focused on running the two minute offense. The offense struggled moving the chains. Tuitama only completed two passes in seven attempts. He was “sacked” twice and threw two interceptions, one by senior Marquis Hundley on a fourth and long play and the other one by freshman Robert Golden.
The Wildcats will host their fourth practice of Fall Camp on Thursday morning at 6:15 a.m. and will likely be back at Tucson High as the players again strap on shoulder pads.
NOTES AND QUOTES:
· After three days of practice, Robert Golden has emerged as one of several newcomers who are likely to earn immediate playing time. A 5-11, 190-pound corner back, Golden was not at all intimidated by the increase of physical play that comes once shoulder pads are strapped on. In fact, Golden was the one who was laying some hits throughout practice and helping energize a young but hungry defense.
“I am looking to play as much as I can,” said following practice. “I am really working on my technique and adjusting to the speed of the game. I know I need to keep putting in extra work to be great.”
Added Stoops, “Robert is a very big and physical player. He is very mature for his age and he competes on every play.”
· Another player that has helped the defense establish itself early in camp is defensive end Ricky Elmore. At 6-5 and 265 pounds, Elmore is combining improved strength and quickness along with experience he gained a year ago as a reserve along the defensive line.
“We’re making plays all over the field,” Elmore said of the defense. “It’s not just one guy or two guys, it’s everyone that is making plays. We have a lot of young guys who may not have the experience, but that have a lot of energy and heart.”
Following his daily press briefing on the field, Stoops made to sure to personally compliment Elmore on his play.
· One of the key position battles is a backup running back to Nick Grigsby. Xavier Smith returns after playing with Grigsby and departed senior Chris Jennings. A pair of newcomers have received some early looks, including junior college transfer Nick Booth and freshman Keola Antolin. Booth stands out physically at 6-2, 225 pounds, while the smaller Antolin stands out with quickness, acceleration and vision.
“I want to do the best that I can,” Booth said following practice. “I have come here to work hard and earn playing time. I want to compete and help this team win a Pac-10 Championship.”
· The Arizona offense had a better day overall than it did on Tuesday, but it was not able to close out practice the way it hoped, including several dropped passes by receivers and backs. Head coach Mike Stoops was sure to address the issue at the conclusion of practice with the team attributing the drops to a “lack of focus”.
Offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes agreed that the offensive unit must learn how to maintain focus.
“I felt like we had an excellent day, but we didn’t finish well,” Dykes said. “It has been a little bit of a reoccurring thing going back to last season when we didn’t finish some games. We can’t let off the pedal as an offense. We need to continue to stress the importance of finishing practices and games.”
· Another freshman that has shown maturity is quarterback Matt Scott. In his first three days, he has shown accuracy and decision making rare for most true freshman.
“He seems to be getting the ball in the hands of the right guys,” Dykes said. “I don’t know if that’s a little bit of luck, but he seems to know what he’s doing and getting the guys the ball. He’s a very calm player.”