Saturday Practice Report

Arizona opened up practice to the fans for the first time and had a great turnout. Several hundred fans came out to the football practice field to catch their first glimpse of Mike Stoops and his staff. They weren't treated to anything out of the ordinary, but most came away pleased with what they saw.

Practice started with a speech from former Wildcat and NFL offensive lineman Glen Parker. Parker was one of many former Wildcat lettermen who were back in town for several alumni functions. Almost 50 former players were at the practice, where they were given better access than the average fan.

"To have the alumni back for the weekend was special," Mike Stoops said. "To have so many of the guys here for practice was great. Glen Parker addressed out team before practice. To have a guy who has been to five Super Bowls was great and I think our players are starting to understand the pride and commitment that comes with the responsibility of playing football here at Arizona."

The Cats did not do anything special to appease the fans, instead they went through the normal paces. They had a lengthy teach period, followed by plenty of drills devoted to improving fundamentals.

"It's been a great week," Stoops said. "The kids have done a real nice job trying to carry over what we have learned in the offseason. I am really impressed with how they are working and their attitudes." At this time practice is usually closed, but today we got to see what happens after the media is escorted out. The Cats spent a long time on special teams, today the punting game was the emphasis. The coaches covered punt coverage as well as protection schemes.

Receivers coach Charlie Williams spent a lot of time with the four punt return candidates. Syndric Steptoe, Ryan Eidson, Michael Jefferson and Wilrey Fontenot are all battling for the job and Williams worked them hard.

Half the team went to work on running drills, while quarterbacks, receivers and DB's went off to go through passing drills. There was a ton of hitting during the running drills. There were no quick whistles and the popping of pads could be heard throughout the practice facility.

In both 7-on-7 and full team drills a lot of the offense could be seen. There will be a lot of motion and movement before the ball is snapped. Short passes are a key component of the scheme, so quarterbacks have to make a number of fast reads.

One player who had an excellent day was Charles McRae. The senior tight end made a number of difficult catches, and was a load to bring down in the open field. On one play he caught a pass in the flats and raced down field. He ran over one tackler and was sprung for a big gain when Eric Sheehan leveled corner back Kiel McDonald. The defensive coaches thought it was a clip, while offensive coaches were sure it was clean.

The Wildcats are alternating which passers get the bulk of the reps. Each day two quarterbacks get the reps, while the other two look on. Today it was primarily Ryan O'Hara and Richard Kovalcheck who got the work, although Kris Heavner and Nic Costa did get a few snaps each.

The quarterback battle is wide open and Stoops mentioned that a starter won't be named until near the end of fall camp.

"All of the quarterbacks are doing a great job, it's going to be a tough competition there," Stoops said. "The quarterback that gives is the best chance to move the football consistently will get the job."

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