Stoops not worried about perception

Mike Stoops talked about numerous topics at the Pac-12 Media Day on Tuesday. read on to see what he says about Juron Criner, his sideline antics, and more.

On Tuesday, Arizona head coach Mike Stoops and starting quarterback Nick Foles were in Pasadena for the inaugural Pac-12 media day in Los Angeles to discuss the team's out look and other topics regarding the upcoming 2011 season.

"We're certainly excited to be here with the start of the new Pac-12," Stoops said. "It's exciting for all of us this time of year to be able to get back and really do what we love to do and that's coach and compete.

"We're certainly excited about this year's 2011 Arizona football team. I think we have a very talented group of players coming back. When you look at our team offensively, I think a lot of it centers around our great experience at quarterback with Nick and certainly our wide receiver and our skill positions."

While the offense will likely be the driving force behind the team's success, questions remain about how an offensive line group charged with replacing all five starters will fare this season. However, Stoops is confident that the group can rise to the challenge.

"With the area of the inexperience on the offensive line, we hope that the experience we have at quarterback and wide receiver will help balance out the inexperience we have along the offensive line," Stoops said. "People will make their assumptions about our lack of experience at those positions, but these guys are very athletic and hard working.

"I believe they can be more talented than the group we had a year ago. Robert Anae has come in and done a great job of molding this group. We just have to give them time to grow, and I think Nick and Matt's experience at quarterback and what we can do to try to help them be better early in the season."

Despite losing three of its most talented players in Brooks Reed, D'Aundre Reed, and Ricky Elmore to the NFL, Stoops believes the defense has the talent remaining to be successful.

"Defensively, it's a similar team that we've had," Stoops said. "We lost three great defensive ends in the two Reeds and Ricky Elmore. That's where we took the greatest hit, is our edge pressure from a year ago. I think the strength of our team will be the back seven with our two linebackers back and certainly a very talented group of corners."

With an offense that has a ton of firepower, combined with a defense that returns several veteran players, coach Stoops believes that his program is in a good place but is ready to try to take it to the next level.

"Certainly going to three straight bowl games, we feel like we've developed a very solid program," Stoops said. "Taking the next step and becoming an elite program in this conference and in this country is something we're going to work hard on and challenge our players to have the ability to put ourselves in a position to win a championship. To compete for a championship is something we'll strive to do this season."

It's no secret that the group of wide receivers assembled by coach Stoops and his staff will be the strength of this year's team, and he's not shy about admitting just how good he thinks the unit is as a whole.

"I haven't had a more talented group, certainly not," Stoops said. "This a very complete and diverse group of players. When you see the size, the speed, the different types of receivers we're going to be able to put on the field, it gives us a very diverse group of players that will give us the ability to spread the football around.

"We have some guys that are going to demand attention, and if they don't get it we better be getting them the football. We have the players and the quarterback to where we can do that. That's going to be a strength of our team, and hopefully that will give us the ability to run the ball better than we have in the past."

There's no doubt that the star of the group is All-American Juron Criner, who Stoops recently stated would rejoin the team after his future with the program was in doubt. While he had been quiet for the most part on the matter up until this point, Stoops shed some light on the situation with his top receiver.

"Our great All-American Juron Criner is obviously a big part of what we do," Stoops said. "Juron had some personal and family issues with his mother that he had to attend to. He spent some time in Killeen, TX with his mother who has been very ill.

"Juron has come back and has really worked hard. I haven't seen him, obviously I can't, but I know he's working out with our team and throwing with our guys and doing the normal stuff that he does day in and day out. I think he feels much better about his mother, that's a big part of who he is. I think he feels a lot better about her condition."

Not all the questions directed at Stoops were regarding the team however, as his famous antics on the sideline came under fire.

"These guys are used to it, they don't even really acknowledge it much," Stoops said. "They pretty much see it 24/7, 365. That's just a part of who I am, and sometimes I think it's misportrayed. The media doesn't see all of the good things, and that's the only thing I disagree with.

"My players know that, and that's the great thing about being around these guys. They let us coach them the right way, and that's what I respect about these guys. Nobody sees all of the good things, they just want to make fun of you for all of these crazy things. I don't worry about it too much."

Shortly after, Foles chimed in to discuss the affect that Stoops' behavior has on him and the rest of the team.

"Coach Stoops is the center of our team being the head coach," Foles said. "When you see your coach that fired up, it's automatically going to make you fired up. You have your head coach doing that, you better do that on the field. To have a head coach with that much intensity, and then he brings it to us, we love him as our head coach. He's been great for our team and he's our center point."

At the media day, Arizona was slotted to finish fourth amongst the six teams of the new Pac-12 South division, behind USC, Arizona State, and newcomer Utah. However, for Stoops and the Wildcats, it's nothing new to be projected to have a less than stellar season.

"I didn't even see it, it doesn't affect me," Stoops said. "We've never been picked high, so it's not unusual for us. I don't know why, I might be a bad coach."

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