Coach's Corner: Mackovic discusses the spring

Spring practice is now over and the preparation for 2003 is underway. There were a number of things to be positive about and a lot of areas for which the UA still needs to improve. John Mackovic addressed the media with his thoughts on spring drills

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General comments on this year's edition of spring football:
Mackovic: "It has been a real nice spring. I have enjoyed the players and coaches. The coaches have a lot of energy, they work hard on the field, and they are very active, and I have enjoyed watching that. I believe that the players have enjoyed the new coaches, and they like the way the coaches get after them. The players crave performance, and discipline is part of improved performance. The players want to play better and have success.

"From where we started to where we are, we are comfortable, but I know that we are not satisfied and not ready to go and start the season right away. We definitely will need the training camp to be able to assist us in preparing for the regular season."

Spring goals for the defense:
Mackovic: "Here are the things we set out to do in the spring. First, we had to install our defense and arrange our personnel. We have done a better job of installing the defense than we did two years ago when a lot of people knew what we were doing. Mike Hankwitz is well organized, and he came with a plan for the defense. The addition of Craig Bray, who also comes with a lot of experience as a coordinator, made an impression on how we put it together because he could easily understand where Hankwitz was coming from. That transition as far as installing our defense went smoothly. We have fronts, stunts, blitzes, nickel coverages, dime coverages and packages, which is far more than someone might anticipate. That was an excellent part of the spring.

"We didn't really re-arrange too many people (on defense). Joe Siofele went to the middle linebacker spot. His weight is probably at the spot where he should be playing another position. He is going to have to trim down in order to play that spot in the fall effectively. The thing that pleased me with the group was that the defensive ends like Marcus Smith and Copeland Bryan who became outside linebackers stood up and moved in there nicely. Marcus Smith was excellent, and Copeland Bryan was not too far behind. I really felt good about what those guys were able to do.

"The other thing about the defense was developing a personality. We had to establish our rough, rugged, hard-nosed personality, and that comes with a lot of discipline and a lot of overlapping in pursuit and gang tackling. We made good strides along that line. We're not there yet, but I think that everyone can look at where we were and where we are now and be comfortable that we moved ahead."

Spring goals for the offense:
Mackovic: "On offense, we had to concentrate on getting our running game put back together. We have five basic key run plays, four of which we were able to focus on during the spring. We spent a lot of time with our power offense. We had good, hard, physical football, and it was good for our offense, and it was good for our defense. We made a lot of strides there, and we improved our power running attack.

"We also had to concentrate on getting our quarterbacks trained so they could run the offense. In that regard, we've had good days and bad days. It has been a matter of taking one step forward and one step back. Where we are is hard to say. The good thing is that as we have gone through things, the quarterbacks have developed a feel for many of the plays and many of the passing game things that we are doing. That part of it is beneficial for them. We have done many strategy situations, and that is good for them because it is like playing in a game. That part of it is coming along."

Spring goals for special teams:
Mackovic: "The third thing was that we wanted to hit all of our special teams this spring so that we made sure we got them as much time as we needed. We focused on the punt team, and we wanted Jay Boulware to have a chance to layout his plan for all the groups. And, we wanted our kickers to kick under pressure, which we didn't do as much last year. Mike Hankwitz has been coaching punters for about 19 years, so he is handling the punters. I'm handling the kickers as much as anybody. We have all of our coaches helping with the special teams in different areas."

On the individual spring awards:

Mackovic: "The most improved offensive player is Chris Johnson at left tackle. The outstanding newcomer on offense is Clarence McRae. He is a non-scholarship tight end who came from Arizona Western, and he really showed some good things. If he continues to develop, he has a really good chance to help us next year. On defense, the most improved player is Lamon Means at strong safety, and our outstanding newcomer is Paul Philipp at defensive end."

On Arizona's goals for the 2003 season:
Mackovic: "Our quarterback play has to be consistent. Week in and week out, we have to get representative play from the quarterback position. We have to be smart and conscious that we do things the right way. We are willing to alter our style of play if we have to in order to win.

"We have to play better defense in order to have a good team. Our focus has been that way all throughout the spring. I am pleased that we switched defenses because I don't believe that our previous defense matched up as well with the offenses that we are playing in the West. Our run defense was less than desirable last year. Last year, teams generally ran on us after they had broken our spirit throwing the ball. That is going to be harder to do against this kind of defense."

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