Costa happy for fresh start

Nic Costa has been in this position before. For the second straight spring he's in a battle for the starting quarterback spot. Last year he battled Ryan O'Hara and this year Kris Heavner and Richard Kovalcheck enter the fray. Costa spoke with Cat Tracks and gave us a very candid report on how camp is going and how he likes the coaches.

Last season Nic Costa started the first three games, but eventually lost his starting spot to true freshman Kris Heavner. Costa remained the number two quarterback, but never got a firm grasp on where he stood.

Costa was critical of John Mackovic before he was dismissed and continued to be down on the former coach after the firing. In fact, Costa's allegations of odd treatment were likely a factor in the timing of Mackovic's dismissal. Costa told reporters that he was never given an explanation for his benching and said that he was virtually ignored by Mackovic and the staff after Heavner's promotion.

You won't hear negative comments from Costa on the new staff. He has nothing but high praise for his new head coach.

"The head coach is very intense," Costa said of Stoops. "He's in there. He's out there showing and demonstrating. Guys see that and pick up on that. Players want to see their coach down and dirty and getting friendly with the teammates. That helps the camaraderie and helps the team gel together."

Costa likes the way Stoops relates to players and attributes it partially to his age. He said that Mackovic had a different relationship with the team than Stoops does, but conceded that he never knew the former coach when he was Stoops' age. Regardless, Costa is happy with how his new leader deals with the team.

"Having a coach that can relate to his players a little bit more in today's game helps, and coach Stoops can definitely do that," Costa noted. "He's out here fraternizing with the players. He'll be your best friend, but he'll make you work hard. He's not going to scowl at you or turn his back to you when you do something wrong. He's going to make you do it better." Costa is also thrilled with the new quarterbacks' coach. Mike Canales has coached in the NFL and coached some great passers. Like his mentor Norm Chow, Canales can be a very quiet, almost cerebral coach. However, he's also a guy that can fire his charges up.

After just a few months of working with Canales, Costa has a very favorable impression of the offensive coordinator.

"He's quiet when he needs to be, yet he's very vocal when he wants to be," Costa explained. "When there is something he doesn't like, he'll let you know, but he'll do it in a way that isn't degrading to the player. Other times you may make a bad decision, a bad read, or bad throw, but he won't come down on you. He's like, ‘okay, things like that happen.' When you make a bad throw, but the read was right, it's okay because it's mechanical and it's one of the first practices. There's a lot of work to be done before the season starts so he's not the kind of guy who will scream and yell at you and make you feel bad about yourself so that you don't have any confidence."

Practices are quite different. All of the players mention how fast paced and jam-packed they are, and Costa is no different. The junior is very impressed with how the staff has set things up.

"It is very organized, station to station to station," Costa said. "Everybody is getting reps, everyone is going. No longer are quarterbacks standing around, walking back, calling the play. You are breaking out a sweat. You coming ready to work, you bring your lunch pail and go to work." For the second straight year Costa finds himself in a dogfight for the starting quarterback job. With his speed and strength many fans wonder if Costa will switch positions, but as of now he is intent to fight to be the starting signal caller against NAU.

Costa brings a lot to the job and feels that he can make a legitimate run at the job. Although he'd love to have the starting spot handed to him, the junior knows that the battle will help the team in the end.

"(Stoops) was talking about this being one of the most competitive positions on the field," Costa said. "I'm happy for it. I'm glad there isn't just one guy or two guys, there are four, or five guys if you count Adam (Austin), that could legitimately play college football at the quarterback position. It's nice because whoever is going to play, everybody is going to push him to make him the best. Everybody is getting better. The good thing is that everybody out here has great attitudes. No one is out here for himself. If they see another guy make a bad throw they try to help him out. It helps people out and makes them better."

Although he was once very critical of Mackovic, Costa now chooses to focus on the present. He won't badmouth the old coach, but in reading between the lines of his praise for the new staff, you can pretty much tell how he feels.

"It's a fresh start for everybody," Costa said. "You've got all these people working out here afterwards. It's a different feel, we've never had this many people working after practice trying to get better. It's a different atmosphere, a different approach towards the game. You feel good about yourself. Even though you're being worked so hard, you want to fall over, you want to lay in your bed, but when you are done you feel like, ‘wow, I'm glad we did that.' It feels like you're actually being worked like a college football player. It's a good feeling, for some of the guys they feel like they were cheated out of the feeling of college football. It may be real hard, but everyone enjoys it."


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