Monday practice report

The Wildcats won't be in full pads until Tuesday, but Monday's practice was spirited. Despite the fact that the team was not tackling, the pop of the pads could be heard all over Rincon Vista field.

Like normal, the Cats went into individual position drills after stretching. In an interesting move the defensive line joined the offensive line much earlier than normal. They were across the field from where I was, but you could hear that they were really going at it.

In fact the whole team seemed a little edgy today. You can tell that they want to start hitting. My guess is that we are a week from the first ‘they want to hit someone else' quote.

During the individual drills, defensive graduate assistant Travis Ochs worked alone with Dane Krogstad, John McKinney and James Alford. Krogstad looks to start at strong side linebacker but will move inside on some passing downs. The other two are fighting for time inside.

The quarterbacks, receivers and defensive backs moved to one side of the field for passing drills, but I stayed to watch the lines go at it in running drills. After two plays both sides just seemed to be chomping at the bit to really go at it. Whichever side made a play, the rest of the unit would go crazy.

Although it is really tough to get an accurate gauge of things in non-tackling drills, Mike Bell looked really good to me. He was very shifty and can change direction almost instantaneously. Chris Henry left his feet too much for my taste. On one play he jumped to avoid fallen linemen but practically landed in the arms of a defender.

Michael Johnson made his presence known. The JC transfer was getting some hits in. At one point he and Henry went head on and neither gave an inch. I think it is safe to say we'll see that tall Texan on the field this season.

It was good to see Paul Phillip get some quality action in. Later in practice he was held out to ice his surgically repaired shoulders, but he is getting a lot of work in.

After a brief break, it was time to work special teams. Michael Thomas joined Syndric Steptoe and Ryan Eidson in fielding punts. On Saturday Bell was with the unit, not the DeSoto freshman. With Danny Baugher on the field with the actual punt teams, Nick Folk and Jason Bondzio joined Kyle McQuown in punting. McQuown, the transfer from Idaho State, struggled a bit on Monday. He looked pretty good earlier in camp, but just wasn't booting the ball all that well. The two place kickers, especially Folk, were getting off some nice punts. They were not consistent, but they were solid.

After some work on formations, the actual punt teams began to go at it. Baugher was again inconsistent, but was mostly solid. The vast majority of his kicks were in the 40-yard range, but he did hit one that was around 55 yards. He also had a few that were sub 35.

After that it was time for 11-on-11 work. The Cats actually did it over two sessions, though there was a lot more running in the second session.

As you can expect Kovalcheck took the opening reps. His first two passes were short. The first was a quick out to B.J. Vickers for just a few yards. The second was a swing pass to Terry Longbons. On the third play he looked down field and Brad Wood found a seam in the zone and Kovalcheck found him for about a 20-yard gain. After a sack Kovalcheck found B.J. Dennard for a five-yard gain.

After that the quarterbacks switched off every other play. Austin hit Henry on a short gain on his first pass, then gave way to Kovacheck who could not find an open receiver. Austin came back and dumped off another short pass to Thomas.

Next it was Willie Tuitama's chance to take some snaps. Alternating with Kovalcheck the freshman missed on his first attempt. He then found Wood on a short completion and had Dennard drop a pass. During the same stretch Kovalcheck had a pass dropped by Longbons, then fumbled a snap. He settled down and found Henry and Gilbert Harris on successive plays.

Austin came back in and completed a 15-yard pass to Steptoe.

Kovalcheck got the next eight snaps. He was 4-6 during the stretch, finding Mike Jefferson for a 10-yard gain as the highlight. He also had another pass dropped, although it was thrown a bit behind Thomas.

Austin finished out the session on a high note. He missed on his first attempt and then a screen pass to Bell led to no gain. On the final snap he looked down field for Jefferson and the junior receive hauled in a pass that went for at least 35 yards.

The second session featured more runs than passes. Tuitama had the highlight of the session. He went down the right sideline and found Steptoe for what would have been a sure touchdown. The play was good for at least 40 yards.

Tuitama also got lucky. He threw a bullet that went off the fingertips of a linebacker and landed in the arms of Vickers for a 15-yard gain.

Unofficially I had Kovalcheck at 9-17 for about 68 yards, though he missed on his final three throws. Austin was 6-10 for 87 yards. Tuitama was 4-of-9 for about 70 yards.


*Lamon Means saw his first extended action after being hampered with a hamstring injury.

*Spencer Larsen worked as a long snapper on the side. He is very limited due to his injured knee.

*Basketball player Jawann McClellan was on hand, as were AD's Chris DelConte and Jim Livengood. Former Wildcat Brandon Nash is working as a reporter for Fox 11 television and watched the entire practice.

*The Cats will practice on Tuesday at 2:30. They may also change the schedule on Wednesday and Thursday. Apparently Mike Stoops has been Tucson's most accurate weatherman. Every time he has moved up a practice it has rained, at least a little bit.

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