Stoops optimistic about season

Mike Stoops addressed the media on Monday and talked about numerous subjects. Read on for an injury report, what he thinks of NAU, an update on starters, and more.

In another sure sign that Arizona football is around the corner, head coach Mike Stoops took the podium on Monday in preparation for Saturday's game against NAU.

"I am excited to get into final preparations for Northern Arizona, getting the season kind of on its way is exciting," Stoops said. "This is a great time of year for all of us. I am tired of talking about it and ready to go out there and see what we got."

As the season begins, Stoops feels that the Wildcats have come a long way since the beginning of Fall Camp.

"I think we have improved a great deal over the last month in really all aspects," he said. "We certainly have a long way to go, but that is what the journey is about, is seeing how much you can progress. I think this team will be one that will get better consistently as we are relatively young in some areas, but have a lot of experience in other areas."

Speaking of that youth, Stoops believes it is a good mixture, as the newer players will get plenty of help from the veterans.

"There is a little bit of inexperience, but I think we have experience in critical elements of our team that help that experience and youth transition," Stoops said. "Obviously the youth movement is a little more than we would like, but that is just due to a rash of injuries that put us in this situation where we have to rely more on depth than we have in the past.

"It is an interesting group. We have so much experience around them that I think that helps. It is hard to put a bunch of young guys in there, but if you put one or two young guys in there with a group of guys that have played, it takes a lot of pressure off them. "

It is no secret that Arizona has one of the hardest early season schedules in the nation and even Stoops admits he would have liked to see it differently.

"It is not ideal, just with a strong nucleus of young players, you would have liked to have the Louisiana Lafayette and the NAU game back to back to give us some experience going into really the teeth of our schedule, but it happened this way," he said.

"We are going to have to really learn quickly from the experience that is going to take place Saturday for our young players. I think our older players understand things."

While some may assume that Saturday will be an easy game for Arizona, Stoops says he has been impressed with NAU's progress over the years.

"I think as the state gets better his teams have continually improved," Stoops said of NAU coach Jerome Souers. "They look forward to this game; in a lot of ways it is a huge opportunity for them to showcase their program. They compete every time they step on the field.

"They are well coached, their kids play extremely hard. I like the way they play and their systems are very complete. They are very foolproof and they have good players. They have some playmakers on offense. The running back is a big kid and guy that we really looked hard at. He is a very complete player and comes from a good program here in state, so I am sure he will be chomping at the bit to come down here and prove himself."

Stoops is not one to make predictions, but says that he generally has a positive feeling about the Wildcats.

"I am very optimistic about this group," he said. "I know what our limitations are and I am not going to elaborate on those, it will be very interesting to see how it comes together this week. I will have a better feel once we get on the field and see what we can do. I have a pretty good idea, but we still have a lot of questions that need to be answered."


  • While Nick Foles has performed well in his career at Arizona, Stoops pointed out one of the issues that he would like to see him avoid this season.

    "I think it is important Nick does not have lulls in games that go beyond a series," Stoops said. "That is critical for us. You go two series, three series and nothing is happening, we can't have that and I thought in big games we had that at times where we struggled to keep our consistency and we just weren't in rhythm."

  • Keola Antolin and Juron Criner barely played in Fall Camp, but that does not seem to be any type of indication of their health.

    "Juron I think maybe played 20 snaps and Keola I don't know played any in live contact drills," he said. "These guys have played so much football. The other players needed more repetition, especially at those two positions. I am not worried about those guys one bit."

  • Rob Hankins appears to be the starter at one of the linebacker spots, although Stoops was hesitant to say that was solid.

    "Rob has a chance to be an excellent football player," Stoops said. "That is in our three linebacker package. That is still a little undecided. Between him and David Lopez, we are kind of going back and forth. We have to put one of them out there and we will see how it plays out when we get into our big formations."

  • Freshman Cortez Johnson is the backup at both cornerback spots and will likely get plenty of playing time Saturday.

    "We knew he would be a factor coming in even with our depth at secondary," Stoops said. "We knew he would start in our five or six DB set from the get go or have a good chance. He did live up to what we thought he would be. He has been everything we thought he would be with the maturity, the physical maturity, the size, and the speed."

  • Mohammed Usman recently had a boot on due to a minor injury, but was practicing on Monday.

    "We were a little bit sensitive to him just because we wanted to make sure he was 100 percent getting into today's work and game preparation," Stoops said Monday. "Mohammed is a guy that has a lot of speed and a lot of energy. I think he learned a lot from Brooks Reed a year ago and there are a lot similarities in the way that they are relentless in their pursuit of the football."

  • There is not a lot of news about injuries, as Adam Hall, Greg Nwoko, Jake Fischer, Willie Mobley, and Jonathan McKnight are definitely out. Josh Robbins (back) and Daniel Jenkins (ankle) are doubtful.

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