Fall Camp Opens

Arizona football began year two of the Mike Stoops era with their first practice of the 2005 fall camp. There was no time for adjustments, as the team dove right into things. From the opening moments the coaches were intense and expecting big things from the players.

No doubt the fact that the players had been in town all summer played a role in a lack of patience from the coaches. The staff preached intensity and very little time was spent on getting acclimated. Within a few minutes of starting practice offensive coordinator Mike Canales was on his charges about firing fast off the ball and going hard on every play.

Moments later Mike Stoops was coaching footwork to corner backs Wilrey Fontenot and Dramayne McElroy. Last year they were still teaching the defensive schemes, here the staff was going over some fine details of pass coverage footwork.

It should come to no surprise that everything moved at a very fast pace. There was little standing around. Players jumped from drill to drill, and moved with a sense of purpose.

There was no doubt that players were bigger, faster and stronger. Credit must be given to the strength and conditioning coaches as no Wildcat team has ever looked this physically imposing. The line is all big, but not fat. There are very few bellies on this squad. Even players like Fontenot and Syndric Steptoe are rocked up. Punter Danny Baugher looks more like a short linebacker than a kicking specialist.

One group that looked especially impressive were the wide receivers. Mike Jefferson, Anthony Johnson and B.J. Vickers give the Cats three big, athletic receivers like they have never had before. All three are over 6-2 and 200 pounds, with Vickers weighing in at an imposing 220 pounds. Add to the group undersized speedsters in Steptoe and Michael Thomas, plus the likes of Bobby McCoy, Gerold Rodriguez and Ryan Eidson and you have the makings of a solid unit.

One funny moment came after McElroy gave up a long catch to Jefferson in 1-on-1 drills. As he came back to group, he turned to Fontenot and said "He got me at the line."

A moment later Stoops looked over and said to the two corners, "they're getting you at the line."

The mind reading continued just minutes later as director of football operations Eric Harper looked down at the long grass and mentioned that it needed to be cut. Not more than 30 seconds later Stoops came by and said "we need this grass cut tomorrow."

B.J. Dennard wore the offense's white jersey but played both receiver and corner back in one-on-ones. He exclusively at wide receiver during the scrimmages.

In an interesting move Erick Levitre worked with the first team at center. He was joined by Peter Graniello at left tackle, John Abramo at left guard, Kili Lefotu at right guard and Tanner Bell at left guard.


Most of the reps were taken by Richard Kovalcheck in the 7-on-7 drills. Unofficially he was 8-8 for about 57 yards (there is no tackling). Most of his passes were short or dump offs, although he did find Steptoe on a pretty 15-yarder where the 5-9 receiver stretched out to make a nice grab.

Unofficially Adam Austin was 6-6 for about 37 yards. Like Kovalcheck, most of his passes were of the short variety. True freshman Willie Tuitama was 3-5 for about 12 yards. The biggest difference between him and the two veterans was that he was much more indecisive than the older passers. Twice he took a good five seconds to get a pass off.


The defense got the better of things in the 11-on-11 drills. Again, there was no tackling, but there was a pass rush and that sped things up a bit.

Kovalcheck started out shaky, missing on his first four passes, including an interception by Darrell Brooks on a pass he floated. After that he settled down and looked very good. He broke the 0-4 start by completing a screen pass to Mike Bell for about 10 yards.

The second drive started with an incompletion, then hit Gilbert Harris and Anthony Johnson on consecutive five-yard gains. After John McKinney dropped what should have been sure interception, Kovalcheck hit Travis Bell on a five-yard out and Steptoe on a 15-yard completion on the right sideline.

On the final drive he was perfect. He hit Dennard for 10 yards, then handed off twice, once to Mike Bell for a huge gain. He thin found Bell for a very short gain in the flat. He finished off his day with a swing pass to Chris Henry for about 10 yards.

He finished the session 7-13 for 63 yards, but was 6-8 on his final 14 attempts.

Austin had two series. The first saw him throw two incompletions and then connected with Vickers on a seam route for a 20 yard gain. His next series saw him hit Jefferson on a screen pass for 15 yards. He then threw two incomplete passes and then found Travis Bell for a 10 yard gain.

All told he was3-7 for 45 yards.

Tuitama was solid in his only series. He started off by hitting Dennard for a 25-yard gain. He had a pass deflected at the line, then hit Johnson for 20 yards and found Steptoe on a five-yard out.


*Jordan Lowe was the lone recruit not to be eligible. He will apparently attend Phoenix College in an attempt to become eligible.

*The Cats welcomed 11 new walk-ons and a transfer to the team. They include: DL Dave Bertrand from Phoenix (Horizon)
QB Jordan Diepersloot from Chowchilla, CA
LB Dan Garcy from Danville (San Ramon HS), CA
LS Joe Harris from Palo Alto, CA
RB Skylar Harris from Phoenix (Mountain Pointe)
LB Max Johnson from Marana (Mountain View)
RB Billy Ring from San Francisco
LB Jeremy Samoy from Tucson (Sahuaro)
FB Eric Schlagel
QB James Smith from Tucson
QB Matt Stone from Tucson (Catalina Foothills)

*Punter Kyle McQuown transferred from Idaho State but is paying his own way this season. He went to high school at Salpointe.

E-mail Brad at bradallis@msn.com

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