Saturday Night Practice Report

The real fireworks start on Sunday when the Wildcats can finally practice in full pads. Even though it wasn't a full contact practice, there was a lot of hitting and tempers flared. Along with a number of nice pass plays, a small skirmish highlighted the evening.

Tempers had been flaring since the start of camp and things came to a head during the end of practice. Gilbert Harris took a quick slant and found some running room. The coaches require all receivers to keep running after the play and Harris did just that. He also kept looking back at Jason Martin who was in hot pursuit. Martin took offense to the taunting and the young corner hit the fullback. Harris took offense to the tackle and the two came to blows, which led to Harris getting a nasty cut over his eye that will require stitches and could cause him to miss a practice or two.

The coaches were angry with both players and neither returned to action.

"That was foolish," Mackovic said. "If you are going to look up a defensive back, he's going to crack you. Every running back has plenty of people to run into in his lifetime, so you don't need to go looking for an extra one."

An even scarier moment occurred when offensive lineman Tanner Bell went down holding his knee. He was helped off the field and the extent of his injury is unknown. The team will further evaluate him on Sunday.

The offensive line was working a lot on technique and double teams. The guards and tackles worked extensively on double teams and blocking linebackers.

Freshman Ismael Garcia finally joined the team. Garcia was back home in California taking a science class that ran longer than expected. He was not allowed to don the pads and will be in shorts, shirt and helmet for another day as per NCAA rules.

Phil Clark invoked the wrath of the coaches a few times in practice, but was also very aggressive. He's already been dubbed "Big Phil" and has impressed one important person.

"I kind of watched him and he's doing okay," Mackovic said. "He has some promise."

John Parada has shown a bit of attitude. He's been hitting hard and even jawing some. He and Paul Phillip got into it a little bit.

Two linemen are clearly ahead of everyone else. Brandon Phillips continues to dominate. Don't be surprised if he isn't one of the top tackles in the conference this season.

On the other side of the ball it has been all Carl Tuitavuki. No one had an answer for the big defensive tackle Saturday night. Seeing what he can do trimmed down to 320 pounds makes you wonder what kind of an impact he could have had last year had he been in shape. If he can get the same push against opponents that he's been getting against teammates, it could be tough to run up the middle on the Wildcats.

The defensive backs worked on a number of things including various zone coverages and nickel and dime packages. The top three corner backs appear to be Michael Jolivette, Gary Love and Jason Martin, but Luis Nunez has been impressive early. Zeonte Sherman was also getting work at corner. The safety position looks like it could be a strong point for the Cats. Darrell Brooks and Lamon Means have the inside track and they have the potential to be a great tandem. The unit is further bolstered by Clay Hardt and Tony Wingate.

Another defensive back to keep an eye on is Gary Shepard. The redshirt freshman has been used at safety and has been all over the field. He's been popping players and is very aggressive. He can also play corner back, so his versatility could be a key.

Kirk Johnson is trying to establish himself at inside linebacker. With Pat Howard on the shelf, the junior is doing a good job at trying to earn playing time. Johnson made a name for himself his freshman year as a big hitter and is doing that early on in camp. He's been doing a good job of covering ground and is giving guys pops whenever possible.

Chris Henry had a good day running the ball. He showed great speed and found seams in the defense to run through. His combination of size and quickness makes him one intriguing prospect.

The quarterbacks looked much sharper in tonight's practice, especially in the 7-on-7 "skellies". Ryan O'Hara was especially impressive. The redshirt freshman was 6-7 for about 73 yards, including the big play of the night. O'Hara spotted walk-on receiver Ryan Eidson all alone on the right sideline and connected on a long bomb that was close to 50-yards.

"They were a little bit better tonight," said Mackovic. "We threw a lot more balls to the receivers that they could catch and run with. Last night we had a lot of balls on the back shoulders."

Nic Costa was solid as well. The sophomore was 4-4 for 25 yards. Kris Heavner was 2-4, but had a sure completion dropped. Richard Kovalcheck connected on 2-of-3 passes.

Biren Ealy had the most productive drill, grabbing four passes for 30 yards. Eidson was the only other receiver with multiple catches. All told ten receivers had catches.

Shepard had a chance at a big play, but dropped an interception that would have led to a touchdown.

The quarterbacks were not quite as successful in the 11-on-11 scrimmages. Costa was just 1-4, but his only completion was a little dump off to a safety valve. O'Hara was a little better, connecting on 3-of-5 passes, but no completion was longer than seven yards. He did go deep again, but Ealy dropped a long bomb that was a little underthrown but very catchable.


*David Sharp is working on some academic issues and is not with the team.

*Andre Torrey cut his foot while removing tape and will miss a few practices. It is not serious.

*Gainus Scott is not participating in drills. According to Mackovic he has not been feeling well and has lost some weight. The team is holding him out as a precautionary measure.

*Walk-on Jamie Sandler had his arm in a sling and was not participating.

*Sunday marks the team's first practice in full pads. Practice is on campus and is open to the public. It begins at 4:30.

For the complete UA Football Practice Schedule and other news from Wildcat Athletics, go to the Daily Wildcat Scoreboard


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