2004 Arizona Wildcats Football Season Preview

<b>Head Coach:</b> <A HREF=[NodeID:1059741]>Mike Stoops</A> (1st year) <br><br> <b>Last Season's Record:</b> 2-10 (1-7, 10th in Pac-10) <br><br> <b>Last Bowl Appearance:</b> 1998 Holiday Bowl (23-20 victory over <A HREF=http://nebraska.TheInsiders.com>Nebraska</A>) <br><br> <b>Key matchup(s):</b> Sept. 8th <A HREF=http://wisconsin.TheInsiders.com>Wisconsin</A> (Fox Sports Net), Nov. 26 <A HREF=http://arizonastate.TheInsiders.com>Arizona State</A> (Fox Sports Net)

Star Power: Mike Bell, RB, Jr. 6-1, 220; Steve Fleming, TE, Sr. 6-6, 260; Lamon Means, S, Jr. 6-3, 195

Notable Additions: Randy Sims, San Francisco CC, LB, 5-11, 230; Kiel McDonald, Sacramento CC, CB, 5-11; Yaniv Barnett, DT, Schertz, TX (Clemens), 6-3, 285

Notable Subtractions: Michael Jolivette CB (graduation), Gary Love CB (graduation), Clarence Farmer (graduation), John Mackovic (fired), Clay Hardt SS (graduation)

Notable Returnees: Brandon Phillips OL, Biren Ealy WR, Keoki Fraser C, Carlos Williams DT, Darrell Brooks S

09/04/04Northern Arizona
09/25/04Washington State
10/30/04Oregon State
11/13/04@Southern California
11/26/04Arizona State
Offensive Overview: Last year the offense was in shambles. The Wildcats played three different quarterbacks until settling on true freshman Kris Heavner. Heavner has the nod again, but will enter fall camp with at least three other passers hot on his heals. The team brought in LaVell Edwards/Norm Chow disciple Mike Canales to implement a quick hit, spread offense. Canales comes from the New York Jets, but is best known for being Phillip Rivers' QB coach at NC State. Expect the Wildcats to throw the ball all over the field, while at the same time trying to get Mike Bell as many touches as possible. The new staff feels the Pac-10's top returning rusher can be a special one. Steve Fleming has the makings of a great pass catching tight end and most of the receiving corps returns. This is key because the Wildcats will rely on a lot of four receiver sets, so there are a lot of balls to go around. The offensive line is a bit of a puzzle. A lot of experienced players are back, but the unit has been a weakness the past three seasons. Injuries have been a large part of the unit's struggles and the staff prays that they can keep oft-injured Brandon Phillips, John Parada and Tanner Bell healthy.

Defensive Overview: Long gone are the days of 'Desert Swarm' but Cat fans hope Stoops' Troops can be all the rage. The Wildcats are on their fourth defense in three seasons and almost anything would be an improvement over the porous unit of the Mackovic era. The Cats will employ an aggressive 4-3 defense that relies on disguising blitzes and coverages to keep the offense guessing. The safeties are a strength with Lamon Means and Darrell Brooks, but both starting corner backs must be replaced. Right now two JC transfers and a redshirt freshman look to be the starters, with two little-used veterans and two true freshmen in the mix. The Cats will use a lot of zone to protect the corners after years of man-to-man schemes in the double-eagle flex. The linebacking corps has some promise, but some of the young players need to step up. It will be interesting to see just who emerges as the starting three because upwards of nine players enter the fall with hope of extensive playing time. The defensive line has been terribly thin for several seasons and the Cats will play short handed again. Two reserve defensive tackles will likely not survive academics and the team is still reeling from the death of incoming recruit McCollins Umeh. It could be a few seasons before defensive minded head coach Mike Stoops has a unit he feels comfortable with.

Special Teams Overview: As bad as the Wildcats have been, their special teams have been worse. Their kickers were a combined 2-11 and incumbent kicker Nick Folk has never made a collegiate field goal. Punter Danny Baugher can be amazing one minute and then kick the next ball off the side of his foot. The Cats gave up 8.7 yards per punt return, while only gaining 5.2. New special teams coach Joe Robinson comes in with a great reputation, but he'll have his hands full trying to get this group back to where it was under Dick Tomey.

The Wildcats will be better under Stoops, but... may not have much to show for it. The schedule is tough and the team is young. A dream season would be six wins and a lower tier bowl, but a more realistic goal may be noticeable improvement and finishing out of the cellar.

TheInsiders.com 2004 College Football Preview
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