Hard working Hugo looks for winning season

James Hugo has been one of the players that everyone has pointed to as having benefited from the rigorous off-season conditioning program. The senior tight end has a lot to prove, both as an individual and as a member of a team that has struggled in his tenure on the team.

Hugo had an up and down season a year ago. He emerged as the starting tight end in the wide-open Arizona offense, but due to sub-par line play Hugo was less of a receiving option than was expected. Despite being used primarily as a blocker, Hugo had nine catches for 56 yards and a score.


Offensive woes weren't the only problem. Hugo had some disciplinary problems and missed the ASU game before being reinstated to the team.


After the disappointing 5-6 campaign, Hugo was one of dozens of Wildcats to dedicate himself to improving. Hugo was one of many senior leaders that joined in on a comprehensive training regimen.


"I stayed here all summer," Hugo said. "I haven't gone home much since the end of last season. I stayed here and tried to make every lifting session, every workout. Just try to work harder, to do everything I could to get better."


It helped that the Wildcats had the shiny new weight room to work in. The Wildcats were even more motivated by the state-of-the-art facility. Another key factor was the program itself which strength coach Brad Arnett implemented.


"The new weight facility is amazing," Hugo said. "It's got everything you could possibly need right there. Brad (Arnett) just does wonders with it too. He teaches you new stuff every week that keeps you interested instead of doing the same old lifts. They keep installing new stuff all the time. You can go in everyday and see some changes."


Hugo is a part of one of the team's deepest positions. The team has four quality tight ends who all look like they can make an impact. Speedy Justin Levasseur and rangy Steve Flemming have already pushed Hugo. The Cats have also welcomed freshman Matt Padron who has displayed all of the tools. Despite this deep group, Hugo still finds himself deeply entrenched in the Wildcats' plans.


Although he is known as a blocker, in practice and scrimmages Hugo has shown that he can be a reliable pass receiver. The 265-pound tight end has good hands and can take a hit over the middle. Hugo hopes that this season he will have a chance to showcase himself as more than just a blocker. A lot depends on the blocking of the offensive line. The better they block, the more Hugo can slip into the pass plays.


"I think in general that having a better understanding of the offense will lead to better blocking," Hugo surmised. "We'll have better protection of the quarterback just because we have a better understanding of the blocking schemes. That's going to allow us tight ends out into the pattern a whole more and catch some balls."


The second year in the offense has led to a much better understanding by the team. A year ago at this time the team was still trying to absorb all of the complexities, while still learning some of the basics. This year the team is trying to put together the little things that will make them even more dangerous.


"The coaches always try to tweak and add a little bit more here and there, but it's the core of basic plays from last year," Hugo explained. "A lot of it is just tweaking and polishing. That is really good because we have a lot of returning starters on offense who know what is going on. They just have to get the fine-tuning down and learn the nuances."


While it's obvious that Hugo would like to catch more passes and make more of an impact, he has one more goal that is even more important. Hugo's three previous years as an active participant have ended without a certain goal being met.


"I just want to win and go to a bowl," the senior said.



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