Stoops happy with early progress

Mike Stoops met with the media after Saturday's practice to discuss his thoughts on the team, who is standing out, and more.

A couple of practices into Fall Camp and the Arizona Wildcats are starting to address some of the issues that were deemed concerns in the offseason. These areas, while improving, still have a long way to go before they are at a level that the coaching staff is comfortable with.

There is still about a month before things begin to count for the Wildcats and head coach Mike Stoops is pleased with the progress his squad is making. Even with the improvement however, Stoops still understands his players have a lot of work to put in before they're ready to compete at a high level.

"I like what our team's doing," Stoops said. "We're getting better. Kids competed better today. We have a long way to go but if we can improve in some of the areas we need to improve in, we're going to be a complete football team, but until we do that we are going to struggle at times."

There have already been a few bright spots on both sides of the ball. At this point in time, Stoops has been particularly happy with the progress of his defense, as it's a bit ahead of the offense right now.

"Defensively we are further along," Stoops said. "I feel better about our ends coming along, which we knew would take some time, but I think we are going to get some edge pressure. I like our secondary and I like our inside guys. So we're becoming – even with those losses- a pretty complete defense. I like what we are capable of at all 11 positions".

The strength of the Wildcats for the past few years has been, more or less, the offensive side of the ball. With a senior quarterback and an elite set of receivers, it's a strong possibility that it could be a strength of the program again, but Stoops knows that it's a work in progress at the moment.

"Offensively we just got to keep getting better," Stoops said. "Get some continuity. We are seeing what we can do and trying to find our identity to play to our strength and that's obviously our skill players."

One area that could be problematic is the offensive line. The Wildcats' head coach knows that him and his staff have to be up to the task of coaching those players up and taking as much pressure off of them as possible. The line is still being sorted out, but Stoops sees the unit getting much better throughout the course of the season.

"I think you will see a lot of improvement with that group early and I think they'll compete," Stoops said. "They're athletic, but we need to do things to help them and we have to be smart and certainly can't take sacks and put ourselves in bad situations and have dead plays. That's where coaching is going to be important."

The UA head coach wants his squad to play with a little more intent in the upcoming campaign. He likes what he sees early in camp in terms of competitiveness because he doesn't think his squad performed with the necessary toughness it would have taken to beat top teams in 2010.

"I like the way our kids are competing," Stoops said. "That's important. I think our toughness needs to improve as a team all the way through. In tough situations, I didn't think we responded as well as we needed to against elite teams and that's something that we will be tested very quickly within the season."

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