Offensive Optimism

I remember all of these little snippets about John Mackovic- his zeal for the pass- his development of Bruce Hill from a disgruntled freshman days away from quitting the team into probably the single best athletic quarterback ever don Arizona colors. How he took the lowly Kansas City Chiefs from doormat to the NFL playoffs.

All I would hear however is how he got "fired" at Texas because of his run-ins with the G.O.B. (Good 'Ol Boy) Network and I remember this, and as I monitor the progress of the Wildcats though Spring Training and now Summer Camp, I have a reason to be quietly optimistic about the 2001 season. With this, of course comes some concerns. Why the quiet optimism? I mean, don't we have a new coach, a brand new QB and a new Offensive System?  Aren't we expected to -well bomb? Historically, the Wildcats have always performed extraordinarily well in the underdog role-the spoiler- the underachiever.  Bottom line is - Absolutely NOTHING is expected of them this year. Last place will not surprise anyone. Yet, I think all of these so-called experts are wrong. Call it a hunch, call it fanatical, passionate devotion, but I think we have the ingredients to have a good, if not great season. 

Traditionally, the Defense has carried the day- well, folks, Swarm II is about to burst from the Desert. Larry Mac Duff was a great hire and with the likes of guys like Fraser, Thomas, Jolivette, Siofele and quite possibly one of the three top linebackers in the United States- Lance Briggs, we will see a return to the grand old days brawling of Arizona Defense. But, we are no longer hamstrung by a hyper-conservative offense. Coach Mackovic will not be afraid to fill the fall skies with footballs.

Our new triggerman, Jason Johnson will probably never win a game with pure athleticism alone- but then, he is surrounded by potentially the best stable of runners ever to trod the gridiron for the Wildcats. Clarence Farmer- Coach Mackovic said it best- he is truly the "force", the "X" factor, a lethal combination of brute strength and speed sort of a throwback to the great backs of yesteryear like Earl Campbell. Farmers backfield mate Leo- the "General" Mills is finally due for a breakout season. With coach Mackovic's use of the Halfbacks/Fullbacks as pass receivers these two Texas Tornados will put the hurt on a lot of DB's and a lot of strain of the opposition team's dental plans. Look for rookie Mike Bell to surprise a lot of folks, as quite possibly the best 3d down back in the league. Last year fullback Mike Detwiler was an H-Back in Dick Tomey's anemic offense. This year look for him to emulate another Mike- Alstott - in the arena of bruising blocking and thundering up the middle runs. Detwiler's backups- Tremaine Cox and Anthony Fulcher offer nice complements with their explosiveness.

With all that, why the concern? The Wide Receivers last year consisted of three guys- Wade, Wade and Wade. The rest were either underutilized (Brandon Manumaleuna) or suffered from Hands- of Stone Disease (Brandon Marshall). So the real question is among the flankers, split ends and slotbacks and tight ends, who is going to step up and be the other go to guy? Wade will be double and tripled covered, that you can make book on. I think you will see breakout seasons from Levasseur and Hugo plus a newly svelte Malosi Leonard will emerge as a good, if not spectacular possession receiver.

Other red flags? On the O- Line, the first stringers appear to be solid and experienced- but, a torn ACL here, a tweaked shoulder there and then we dip into the ranks of the "Unknown Soldiers". Guys you never heard of until a few weeks ago- Guys like Ozzy Ortiz- Matt Page and John Vorschek. Injuries are part and parcel of football, and the reserves had better be ready to quickly grasp the intricate blocking schemes of the new offense if and when called upon. 

Finally, the kickoff and punt teams are still a "work in progress". Hopefully we will not suffer with the endless placements on the 35-yard line after yet another kickoff out of bounds. Remember, Arizona has had some great kickers in the past- guys like Mc Laughlin, Miller, and of course "Mr. Automatic" Max Zendejas.

I sat in front of the TV here in Chicago and watched the debut of Coach Mackovic's Cats. The offense left me with a lot of optimism. It wasn't perfect, but it was a nice start. Terry Bowden of ABC summed it up rather well whren he stated "when it comes to the season opener, win ugly if you must but win. In August, defenses are usually way ahead of offenses and seven or eight games down the road, all people will really remember is the W."

I think Cat fans may remember this win for a while.


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