The Season Begins Now

Speakers blasted the University of Arizona fight song, and colored balloons lined the doorway leading into the football offices at McKale Center.<p> All of this welcomed the reporting rookies at 10 A.M. and more importantly signaled the beginning of football season for the Wildcats.<p>

"Everyone comes in with a good frame of mind," Head Football Coach John Mackovic said. "Part of what we try to do is teach our young people how to do things in a good fashion because some day they'll be in charge of welcoming people."

As appealing and impressive as this start was, many of these new Cats are already focused on the real task at hand.

"I'm anxious for practice to get started," freshman Lionel Dotson said. "I just want to put on my pads and hit somebody."

Hitting is something Dotson is known for and at 6-4, 240 pounds he will have an opportunity to come in and make an immediate impact as a defensive end.

"It's going to be a lot faster, and the players will be bigger and stronger," Dotson said. "But I'm used to playing against big guys. Those are the only type of players we go up against in Houston."

He won't be the only one with an opportunity to play during his first season, as a number of newcomers are ready to fight for some field time.

"Tonight I will tell the freshmen that they have to learn at their own pace and that the veterans know more than they know," Mackovic said. "But the other thing I'll say is that some of you will end up playing. We want you to show us what you have and get out there and play."

Incoming quarterback Richard Kovalcheck emphasized similar thoughts on the importance of learning his position.

"I feel like the (veteran quarterbacks) are way ahead of me with the experience that they've gotten," Kovalcheck said. "So I'm just going to try to make myself better every day, and if that's good enough to play then that's what I'll do."

A handful of these rookies arrived in Tucson as early as three weeks ago in order to get acclimated with their new surroundings and learn how a Division I football program operates.

"I got here a week and-a-half ago," Kovalcheck said. "I have a better feel for the school and I'm a lot more comfortable."

He also feels his early arrival has benefited him on the playing field.

Along with Dotson, Kovalcheck was also impressed with the speed at this level and feels it could work to his advantage.

"The way the receivers come out of the breaks is something you have to get used to," Kovalcheck stated. "But it's cool, because in high school I had to short arm some of my passes, but here you can just let it go because the receivers are so fast they'll catch the ball."

On defense, the departure of linebackers Lance Briggs, Ray Wells and Spencer Larsen means that depth will be an issue. However, it also presents another opportunity for the newcomers.

"We're expecting Marquell Stinson to be ready to play," Mackovic said. "Dane Krogstad appears to be a freshman who is a little further along than we projected. And of course, Chris Henry was an outstanding linebacking prospect coming out of high school and he's in that mix as well."

Stinson is a junior college transfer and does have a leg up in experience, while Henry is leaning toward filling his role as a running back.

Everyone who was supposed to report to camp this morning did so. They represent the results of Mackovic's third recruiting class at Arizona and a plan that was put into action when he became head coach in 2001.

"Our recruiting emphasis has been to create a team that size-wise could matchup with the best teams we play," Mackovic commented. "This class reflects where we balance that size with speed."

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