Arizona Preview

As always, you can throw out the records of both teams heading into the annual grudge match for state bragging rights. In one corner stand the Arizona Wildcats, current holders of the Territorial Cup. Mike Stoops and company are looking to cap off the 2005 campaign with another victory of their rivals. Up north, ASU skipper Dirk Koetter has felt some mild heat this season and a victory would aid in quieting some of the critics. The Sun Devils can also become bowl eligible with a win this Friday.

ARIZONA WILDCATS

2005 Record: 3-7 (2-5 Pac-10)
Head Coach: Mike Stoops, 2nd year
Offensive Coordinator: Mike Canales
Defensive Coordinator: Mark Stoops

OFFENSE

*Projected Starters

WR Syndric Steptoe (Jr)
TE Brad Wood (Jr)
LT Peter Graniello (So)
LG John Abramo (Sr)
C Erick Levitre (Jr)
RG Kili Lefotu (Sr)
RT Tanner Bell (Sr)
QB Willie Tuitama (Fr)
FB Brandon Lopez (Fr)
RB Mike Bell (Sr)
WR Anthony Johnson (So)

Running back Mike Bell hasn't quite had the senior season he had hoped for but, nonetheless, still a productive campaign for an offense still trying to find an identity. The senior may be licking his chops as the Sun Devil defense has given up some big games to running backs this season. Bell is averaging 83.5 yards per game and has 4 touchdowns. Another senior, Gilbert Harris, will bid farewell in the backfield. Harris has 5 touchdowns on 77 carries.

True freshman Willie Tuitama has provided a bit of a spark for the offense after unseating sophomore Richard Kovalcheck midway through the season. Tuitama has a 55% completion percentage while throwing for 8 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. The freshman is averaging just under 240 yards in the air.

There is some uncertainty as to whether or not freshman Mike Thomas will play against ASU. Thomas is the team leader in receptions with 52 and can make big plays with an open field. The freshman has 5 scores this season, second only to tight end Brad Wood. The junior has 6 touchdowns on 25 catches this season and is a target in the red zone. Speedy junior receiver Syndric Steptoe is averaging 45 yards per game. Sophomore Anthony Johnson is also another target for Tuitama and has caught 29 balls for 3 touchdowns.

DEFENSE

*Projected Starters

DE Copeland Bryan (Sr)
DT Yaniv Barnett (So)
DT Lionel Dotson (So)
DE Johnathan Turner (Fr)
LB John McKinney (Jr)
LB Ronnie Palmer (Fr)
LB Spencer Larsen (So)
SS Michael Johnson (Jr)
FS Darrell Brooks (Sr)
CB Wilrey Fontenot (So)
CB Antoine Cason (So)

Run defense has been an Achilles heel for the Wildcats this season. Opponents are averaging 223 yards on the ground. Defensive end Copeland Bryan leads the team in sacks with 7.5. He and freshman Jonathan Turner, at the opposite end spot, have teamed for 59 tackles. Sophomore Jason Parker has come on with 14 tackles while combining with freshman Michael Shelton for 3 sacks. On the interior, Yaniv Barnett leads with 25 stops while the other starter at tackle, sophomore Lionel Dotson has 19 on the year. Former Arizona State defensive lineman, Rickey Parker, is now in Tucson and assists the Wildcat depth at tackle.

It's also been a growing year for the UA line backing crew. Sophomore Spencer Larsen leads the group with 45 tackles. At middle linebacker is freshman Ronnie Palmer with 33 stops. Junior John McKinney has accrued 24 tackles at the other outside spot. Two other linebackers will also figure into the mix this Friday. Senior Sean Jones has 32 tackles while junior Akin Akinniyi brings in a 17 tackle total.

Senior Darrell Brooks is the leader on defense for the Cats and will be closing out a fine collegiate career. Brooks has keyed an opportunistic secondary at the free safety position with 86 tackles, 2 interceptions, and 2 forced fumbles. Strong safety Michael Johnson is the team's second leader in tackles with 56 as a freshman. Johnson also leads the defense in interceptions with 4. Senior Lamon Means will also see time at safety in his final game. A pair of sophomores are at both corner spots. Antoine Cason and Wilrey Fontenot have combined for 87 tackles and 5 interceptions.

SPECIAL TEAMS

P/ K Nick Folk (Jr)
PR/ KR Syndric Steptoe (Jr)

Junior kicker Nick Folk has taken over for Danny Baugher on punts and is averaging just under 44 yards per punt. 8 of his 19 punts have been inside the 20 yard line. Folk is 5 of 8 on field goal attempts this season. The longest attempt made on the season for the junior was for 51 yards.

Wide receiver Syndric Steptoe has amassed 200 yards on 19 punt returns this year. The junior has reached pay dirt once this season against UCLA, a 63 yard return. Steptoe is averaging about 25 yards on kickoff returns.

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