Cats begin fall practice

Fall camp got off to an auspicious start. Lightning delayed practice by an hour before the team finally moved on to campus. It may be very early, but you can already notice the gains made from the offseason conditioning program.

The team arrived to ‘Camp Rincon' with ominous skies, but they attempted to get things underway. Kickers, long snappers and quarterbacks were on the field when lightning forced them to cover. The rest of the team was forced to stay on the busses that brought them over from campus.

"It was fun actually," said Marcus Smith. "We had fun with the PA system."

After much deliberation between the coaches and the training staff, the team headed back to campus and a run through at McKale. The offense and the defense did a lot of work on formations on the basketball court, but couldn't get a whole lot of good work in. Finally the storm cleared up and the team decided to stay on campus and practice at the newly renamed ‘Jimenez Practice Facility'.

The rest of practice was cut short, but they got some good work in. Drills were followed by some teamwork that was spirited. Considering that no one was wearing pads, the scrimmage was still quite physical.

PLAYER OBSERVATIONS

CB Antoine Cason is very quick. He has a great burst while back peddling and adds that to nice size 6-0, 170. Although it is not big by football standards, Cason does tower over most of the other corners on the team.

Brad Wood is very intriguing, He is listed as a combination tight end/wide receiver and that is exactly what he is. He lacks the pure size of a tight end, but is much larger than any receiver on the team. He worked out with the tight ends, getting a lot of run as an h-back. He has nice quickness and can catch the ball. He should make an impact this season.

Sean Jones continues to impress. He was really moving very well and has instincts that are very advanced for a position he has not played since middle school. He worked with the first defense along with fellow linebackers Randy Sims and Dane Krogstad.

James Alford has some work to do, but the linebacker sure can motor.

Aaron Butler was wearing Keyshawn Johnson's number 19, but he isn't quite in that league yet. Butler showed a great burst to go along with his nice size. On a few occasions he was able to get behind defenders, but his route running needs a little work and he must be more consistent catching the ball. He dropped too many balls the first night.

The two freshmen receivers were very impressive. Gerold Rodrigues can do a lot of things. He had excellent hands and is being described as a very smart receiver. It may have been his first college practice, but Rodrigues runs great routes and may push for playing time.

Fellow newcomer Bobby McCoy got a little more hype in recruiting, but appeared to be more raw than Rodrigues. McCoy can flat out fly, but he needs to work on the little things. There is no doubt that the coaches will be able to improve his fundamentals. McCoy is a hack of an athlete, but could use about 10-20 pounds on his frame.

Two veteran receivers were among the stars of the practice. Juan Valentine is noticeably faster and is a lot less mechanical. Wildcat color-commentator Lamont Lovett said that it was obvious that he had worked hard over the summer. He said his smoothness and improved route running is a product of hard work.

Michael Jefferson continued the great strides he made in the spring. He's bigger, faster and, at least so far, more sure handed. If the first practice was any indication, this could be Jefferson's breakout year.

Gilbert Harris got a lot of work at both fullback and halfback. The coaches love him because he is perfectly designed to play in the single back offense.

Mike Bell looked faster. Although there was no contact, he had some shifty moves, including a leap over a fallen defender in traffic.

Marcus Smith looked much bigger and for good reason. The junior defensive end added between 20-25 pounds of muscle over the summer. He may be bigger, but he feels he is quicker and more agile than he was at the lighter weight.

Nic Costa was not present. According the school he had to take care of ‘family matters' and should be back with the team soon.

The other quarterbacks looked pretty sharp for the first night. Both Ryan O'Hara and Kris Heavner were throwing good balls. Heavner looks huge and O'Hara is a little bit bigger, but still not as big as you would hope.

Looking for a walk-on who could push for time? Aaron Anderson could be your guy. Anderson looked very solid in one-on-one drills. He came to Arizona as a running back last fall and moved to receiver late in the preseason. Now the 6-3, 207-pounder looks quite comfortable catching passes. He'll have to jump past a lot of talent to see the field, but his first night was impressive.

The overall mood was positive although the coaches were intense. When coverages were blown or formations were lined-up improperly, the coaches were all over the offenders. Mike Stoops spent a lot of time with the defensive backs and had high praise for the four new freshmen DB's. Wide receiver coach Charlie Williams is pleased with the talent of his players, but feels that they dropped far too many passes.

NOTES

*A number of players did not report and are presumed to be no longer with the team. DT Jeremy Willoughby, LB Justin Stewart, CB Gainus Scott and LB Marquell Stinson were a bit of a surprise. Brent Bolden, Ismail Garcia, Antoine Singfield, Cedric Cofer and Cliff Stanford were all academic casualties.

*In addition to the new all-blue helmets, the quarterbacks are wearing red jerseys to differentiate themselves. During the fall the QB's wore gold.

*The Cats have a black decal on their helmets with the initials ‘MC' to honor McCollins Umeh, the freshman who passed away this summer.

*Players were only in helmets and shoulder pads as per NCAA rules.

*There are 12 new walk-ons joining the team. Three are transfers, while the rest are incoming freshmen. Most are from the west but QB Matt Brooks hails from Boca Raton, Fla., while DE Jeff Sandler is from Michigan. JC linebacker Brent Nash is the brother of former Wildcat Brandon Nash.

*Former Wildcats Glenn Parker and Brandon Sanders were out at ‘Camp Rincon'.

*Dramayne McElroy was held out of practice, but was suited up. Coach Stoops said it was due to needing ‘clearance'. Presumably he meant medical clearance from the UA staff.

Photos by Carl F. Shifflette III


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