Players report to start of Stoops era

The 2004 edition of the Wildcat football team reported for duty on Sunday and spirits were obviously high. After a summer of intense workouts, the team is confident and chomping at the bit to get started on Monday night.

The best piece of news is that there were few surprises in terms of players failing to report. Sports Information Director Tom Duddleston said that he did not have a final list but that of the 105 players listed on the roster submitted to him there was "nothing alarming" in terms of no-shows.

He did indicate that there were a few veterans who were not expected to report either due to academics or personal reasons, but none of them were key contributors.

Duddleston said that all but one of the players who signed letters of intent were eligible and had reported. The only one who did not was junior college transfer Byron Smith, who long ago let it be known that he would not have his academics in order in time to report.

The biggest news is that Biren Ealy is indeed injured. He broke the fifth metatarsal in his foot and will be in a boot for 3-4 weeks, but should play against either Utah or Wisconsin according to Mike Stoops.

Brandon Phillips confirmed that he will have to sit out the first three games because he signed with an agent before learning that he'd be awarded a sixth year of eligibility. He says that the compromise was worth it, but a coach said that if USC's Mike Williams is granted an immediate return the team would consider an appeal.

Phillips, who has a 10-inch scar on his right knee after surgery last year, has been granted medical clearance and will be able to participate fully in practice. He insists that he was able to do almost the entire off-season workout regimen.

Senior safety Tony Wingate has a broken right hand, but will be able to go on Monday. He hurt it doing 7-on-7 passing drills a few weeks ago. He is to be fitted for a new cast but he is not worried about missing time.

The offseason conditioning program has obviously paid off for a number of players. Center Keoki Fraser has slimmed down and looks to be in great shape. Fellow linemen Kili Lefotu and Chris Johnson are also looking slimmer in the midsection, but thicker up top. Johnson was sporting a Yao Ming jersey and assured the assembled media that he could post up the Houston Rockets' center.

One player you would not recognize is Richard Kovalcheck. The redshirt freshman quarterback has added at least 10 pounds of muscle. He said he has a lot of confidence and feels he has a legitimate chance at earning the starting quarterback spot.

Kovalcheck actually excused himself from an initial interview to watch John Elway give his induction speech at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. After the speech was over Kovalcheck came back out to speak with the media.

Marcus Smith is also noticeably bigger. He was wearing a USA Basketball jersey that showed off his arms, which look noticeably bigger from a year ago.

Receiver Aaron Butler explained how he was able to come to Arizona after initially pledging to Boise State. Since he was recruited after April 1st he was not able to sign a letter of intent, just financial aid papers. He did not need a release and was able to play for the Wildcats when they came calling.

A few players are expected to move positions, but only one move was revealed today. Non scholarship player Garen McHone will move from the offensive line to the defensive line.

A celebrity was on hand as ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit was on hand working on a piece for Sports Center that will air in a few weeks.


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