Pre-Spring Quotes

Year four of the Mike Stoops era at Arizona began on Wednesday with the start of spring football. Earlier in the day Stoops met with the media to discuss his team. Here are the highlights.

Opening Statement:
"The changes we have made offensively we feel are very positive. I could not be more pleased with the staff we put together. We were very patient in the way we went about it. It really worked out in as good away as it could have."

On the defense:
Having 10 starters back on defense, I don't know how much more exciting that could be with a team that showed it could go pretty face to face with virtually most teams we competed against. Our defense matched up relatively well. The things that are bothersome to me, against some of the good teams, we didn't play nearly as consistent as we need to play.

"We go in with the attitude that we are capable of much more. Being the fourth year in this system, the players ought to be able to play freer and more violently across the board. Defensively that gives us a chance.

The pass rush is something that needs to improve. Our tackling needs to improve and playing boot passes. Those are three emphasises we need to go into spring ball and get better. Our payers react to a lot of things. The Arizona State game, UCLA, we didn't play the boots because we played very, very fast at our second level of defense. That is something with our experience at linebackers we obviously need to improve on."

On the offense:
"We are going to be able to work them across the board and give them good work. The quality of players we have on this defense is really going to help that offense out in a positive way."

You always have to protect your quarterback. Teas Tech has never lost a quarterback in seven years and I don't know if he has ever missed a game in seven years. That is a very positive. For throwing the ball that many times to protect that well (is obviously a good thing). I asked coach Dykes and coach Bedenbaugh if they ever lost a quarterback. They couldn't' recall a quarterback missing a game that started. That becomes a premium for us because we know we are a much better team with Willie on the field."

"We will not become a soft football team because we spread the field. That is not who we are . We will continue to play physical. That is a misnomer because you spread people out you become soft. That is something we cannot let happen. We won't. We are going to do thing that will continue to make us a physical football team."

On the receivers:
"The receivers become the most critical aspect of this spring. We have some quality players that need to step up. Coach Wyatt is a great mentor and a great leader for that group. They have shown signs in the winter, but if you are going to throw the ball 50 times a game you need receivers to make plays. We really need to step up as a group there."

On Dykes and Bedenbaugh:
" They think we have every bit as much talent as they do at Texas Tech. We have talent. Finding an identity in what we do well is something we have been searching for since we have been here. Hopefully we will come out of spring with an identity."

On the running backs:
"I think Xavier (Smith) and Chris Jennings are two wonderful running backs. Do you know people who have three great running backs? I don't' know. We have two quality running backs. Glyndon Bolasky is coming off knee surgery and will get some looks and Terry Longbons. One of those guys will step up. I feel very good about the two freshmen we have coming in.Tthose guys are going to need to step up or they are going to get passed by buy freshmen."

On Xavier Smith:
Xavier protecting the quarterback will be a big part as he becomes a more physical player and catching the football…He can run the ball as well as anybody. He is a very good runner. He has great vision and great instincts. Becoming a guy who can make big plays is something he has to continue to work on."

On Chris Jennings:
"Chris does it all well. He is a reliable guy, he needs to continue to improve He is awful big, 221 pounds. (We) probably need to slim him down in this offense because you are out in space quite a bit."

On the spread offense:
"I have seen this offense work in a lot of different places and have defended it. I feel good. I think our players fit the system. I believe if we can develop our wide receiver play that this will be okay. They have never averaged under 30 points per game. That is no guarantee. That is what I tell my players here. That is no guarantee. That is because they work the system and it has proven itself against the top competition in the country. We still have to go out an prove ourselves and work hard at it. I believe these guys are really enthralled by it. They are excited and anxious."

On Willie Tuitama:
"If we had to play tomorrow he would start and he would be 100 percent cleared."

"We have to do a good job in the fall to keep people off of him. He has to make better decisions with the football and make quick decisions and protect himself as well."

On the QB in the spread:
"It is a lot simpler. We are trying to make things as simple as we can for Willie protection-wise. The center becomes a vital part of that, understanding protection and our backs become a big part of that as well."

"We have a lot of three-step game, quick game, that also protects the quarterbacks as well. There are a lot of hot receivers in this system. He has to be smart and able to dump the football off and be able to take three four, five yards and be patient. It starts to accumulate when you play these teams."

On Delashaun Dean:
"De is probably the healthiest he has been since he has been here. We just don't want to overlook him on his knee because he can be a very productive player in this system."

"He is the most sudden, and change of direction runner since he has been here. Even last year when we saw him make nice plays he was not physically, coming off the new injury, where he needed to play. He is getting stronger and will continue to get stronger if he can get through spring healthy and come next fall if he can have a good spring he will be a factor."

On special teams:
"That is probably the biggest question and the thing I am most concerned about. We have always had great special teams.

(Keenyn) Crier probably has as good a leg as any freshman kicker I have seen, but consistency is something we have to work with him and getting pressure on. He has all the talent in the world."

On the place kickers:
"I feel good about those guys. I don't know if we will have the range we had with Nick (Folk), but if we can be consistent from 45 yards and in, that is what we are looking for."

On B.J. Dennard:
"He is a guy who is really capable of doing more than we have seen in his first two years. We have high hopes. B.J. worked probably as hard as he has since he has been here. He has all the talent to be a dynamic player. He just has not been able to put it all together. We hope he can put it together this spring. He has great ability."

On Louis Holmes:
"I think Louis Holmes will be twice the player playing at this level. As good as he was, he did some things athletically I have not seen guys do here since I have been here. He still made a lot of mental mistakes. Just playing, his pass rush gets hesitant at times. Just watching himself over the past year will help him become a better player."

"It is much more technique. As well as any junior college player dominates the junior college game, it is totally different at this level. When you are competing against guys who have been doing it three, four or five years on the offensive line you are not going to beat them."

On the start of spring drills:
"I think it is definitely more exciting to be back on the field. It is good to be in the office recruiting and evaluating the season you went through, seeing the things you did good and bad, and shaking your head at some of the things at some of the bone head mistakes that we have made, it motivates you to get out there."

"I think our kids learned a great deal during those six wins. Not turning the ball over, possessing the football, paying good defense and being strong in the kicking game. We were 115th out of 119th (on offense). I don't think there is anybody that could have won six games with the schedule we played unless they showed some toughness. That is what each program needs. You better be tough or you are not going to win at the level we compete in week in and week out."

"I have found out I am not a miracle worker. I have come to that conclusion. Everyone thinks they are, but football is an ultimate team game. We have just had some things that have been flawed and not good enough. That is why we have not been able to win as consistently as we would have liked. I think we are on the cusp. If we can get through a positive spring healthy we will be in a good situation."

On James Tretheway:
" I think is probably our most improved player in the weight room, changing direction and agility wise. We thought he would be a great player. (He'll) take over for (injured) Pete (Graniello) at left tackle. He is going to give us competition."

"Any program to be where you want to be has to have competition. We had guys just play because they were the best we had. We need young players to motivate. Some kids are motivated by competition. Some are just motivated by being great. The better depth we get across the front the better."

On Tyler Lyon:
" He has to come through and be it will be a big spring for him. Kris (Heavner) will do a lot of the same thing as last year…you have to have three (quarterbacks)… If Tyler does not do what he is supposed to do we are going to play the best guy who gives us the best chance of winning. We have to give Tyler the good opportunity to see if he has what it takes to run this system."

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