Speedy Wells packs a punch

A year ago Ray Wells was coming off a spring where he was voted as one of the most improved players. He took that momentum into training camp and secured a starting job over a senior. Injuries forced Wells to bounce from Rover to Whip, but the constant adjustments did not keep the conference's biggest hurdler from being one of the bright spots on the Arizona defense.

Wells, like many Wildcats, re-dedicated himself in the offseason. Unlike his teammates, he was also with the UA track team for much of the late spring and had to do a lot of work on his own.

"A lot of the guys went home during pre-season and then came here in June and July," Wells explained. "I took a different approach. I was with the track team, so I was still getting my running in. I was still lifting, in fact I was lifting at Washington State (during the Pac-10 championships). I went home the first week in July."

Wells did a lot of training at his home in San Diego. Although he was away from his teammates, he had a pretty good excuse. The 22-year old got married in July. Although he was a newlywed, a motivated Wells kept working out.

"Last year was my first year playing in almost two years because I redshirted," said Wells. "Going through a whole season I realized that I had to do a lot more mentally and physically to prepare myself for this season. I went from a power running workout to a sprint/speed workout to get a little faster and build quickness."

Wells played at San Diego Mesa College before transferring to Arizona. He sat out 2000, before winning a starting job last season. Wells has improved this season, a fact not lost on the coaches.

"Tackling has been a real improvement area for him," said John Mackovic. "He has really become really striking in his tackling. Plus he has the speed to get there."

That speed and tackling was evident a few days ago in practice. During a redzone drill, running back Mike Bell slipped through a hole and looked like he was going to stroll into the endzone. Wells exploded like a freight train and crushed Bell. The freshman runner had no idea what hit him, but found himself on the ground six inches from pay dirt. The humble Wells gave all credit to the scheme.

"It was just playing the defense," Wells said of the hit. "I was just filling in the hole where necessary."

Wells' speed isn't just a factor in football. He just wrapped up his eligibility in track with a 9th place finish at the Pac-10 championships. At 225 pounds, Wells is a sight to see running the hurdles.

"I was the biggest by far," Wells said cracking a smile. "I'd say I'm the biggest hurdler by 40 pounds on any team."

Wells is excited about the linebacking corps. Last year the talented unit was banged up. This year the unit is healthy and ready to help improve the much-maligned defense.

"I think we are pretty good," said Wells. "We have an All-Pac-10 linebacker (Lance Briggs) and Joe Siofele is a pretty good guy. Then you have myself and Kirk (Johnson) at the rover, so that gives us a lot of flexibility. Plus I might play some Whip in some packages. Our unit is flexible. We have guys that can do different types of things."

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