Tuitama is the guy and other thoughts

With another spring football session in the books, a brand spanking new offense, and a healthy Willie Tuitama, what did we learn? Well if statistics mean anything, the Wildcats seem to be right on track.

During the first scrimmage the new Arizona offense put up a whopping 492 yards, with 307yds through the air and 185yds on the ground. The Arizona offense continued its success in the Spring Game with 93 plays for a total of 551yds. (129yds rushing, 422yds passing).

Amazingly enough, there is still grumbling from the fans. I have heard everything from "I don't know if Willie T. is the answer because he threw two picks in the final scrimmage," or "The offense didn't throw a lot of deep passes in the scrimmages" The one that always kills me is "There is going to be a QB controversy this fall" or "The offense looked ok".

Let's address some of these issues. First of all Willie Tuitama is absolutely the QB for this team and he is tailor made for this system. Unlike most of the general public, I have had the opportunity to watch Tuitama practice extensively. The first reason that Tuitama is perfect for this new system is that he is a well-schooled QB. Tuitama is fundamentally sound, from years of working with a great QB coach, Mike Canales. Tuitama has a very efficient and quick release with very little wasted motion. Tuitama understands footwork and is rarely in a bad position when he throws the ball. Also, Tuitama has great arm strength and effortlessly make all of the throws. Finally, he is game tested and is tough. That's right, I said tough. This guy will not back down from a challenge and has already proven that he will play hurt.

The area Tuitama continues to work on is passing the ball with more touch in certain situations. Those situations are when there is a defender between the QB and the WR. Tuitama must be able to use touch to drop the ball over the top of defenders, to the receiver. He has done a really nice job of this in practice situations and continues to get plenty of work in this area.

This new spread system of offense is all about using formations to spread the field and distributing the football quickly to backs and receivers in space. If the QB can get ball to his athletes before the defense can get into position, then the defense is put at a disadvantage. This is where Tuitama's great arm strength comes into play. I have already seen him zip the ball to the receivers so fast that by the time the defender reacts the receiver has turned and started running. When you have athletes like Mike Thomas catching the ball in space, big plays will happen.

The other piece to that equation is for Tuitama to make quick reads. When both of these elements come together, a lot of pressure is placed on the defense. During one practice session I watched, Tuitama completed 10 passes in a row during the team portion. He was distributing the ball both short and deep. There were times where the defense could see the play coming at them, but they couldn't make the play because the ball got to the receiver so fast. The defense was so off balance and concerned about the pass, that when the offense did a run play, it broke for a long gain. This is type of offense that the fans should come to expect.

In the three scrimmages that Arizona ran, Tuitama threw three interceptions. With two of them coming in the Spring Game. I certainly will not tell you that picks are not a reason for concern, because any turnover is a bad thing. But I will point out that Tuitama faced an excellent pass defense every day in practice. This defense is very familiar with the scheme and is expected to make plays. The bottom line is Tuitama made a whole bunch of good plays this spring mixed in with a few bad ones. The coaching staff will be the first to tell you that he had an excellent spring. The turnovers are a part of the learning process.

Some people are concerned that the offense did not run a lot of deep routes during the public scrimmages. There is no need to worry, because the defense is designed to not give up the deep stuff. They usually will give up the underneath routes. The offense was mostly taking what they were given. I will note that the offense was a little bit more deliberate about pushing the ball down field in practice. Guys with sprinters speed like ‘Money' Mike Thomas, Bobby McCoy, and Terrell Turner will be the benefactors of many of these deep routes. We've already gotten a glimpse of how effective Thomas can be when he is isolated in man coverage, on a deep route. He hauled in a 50-yard pass in the spring game.

My final thought relates to the importance of developing football players. Some coaches get players for four years and never really improve their player's football skill set. In other words, these coaches teach players the offense and defensive schemes, but are not making better football players. The great coaches not only emphasize game plans, but also can take raw material and mold it into complete football players. (Ok, where am I going with this?) Coach Darryl Wyatt, the new WR coach is doing an amazing job of developing the Arizona Wide Receiver corp. He is that great coach that seems to have that "Midas Touch" when it comes to developing Wide Receivers.

When Wyatt coached at Oklahoma, almost all of the players under his tutelage ended up in an NFL camp. Leading the way were players like Mark Clayton (1st Round Baltimore), Mark Bradley (2nd Round Chicago), Travis Wilson (3rd Round Cleveland), and Brandon Jones (3rd Round Tennessee). This was more than just good recruiting. Coach Wyatt demands results from his players. He pays close attention to the minutest details when coaching his players. I observed him taking his players through an exhausting practice that involved lots of advanced footwork drills, cutting, and route running. He is an expert at teaching technique, and he emphasizes it on every single play. He is always hounding his receivers about attacking every ball. He is always showing each receiver what he could have done better on each play. He works his receivers like crazy on blocking down field. The results are obvious. Fewer balls are being dropped, and players like B.J. Dennard, and Bobby McCoy are starting to emerge all of a sudden.

If track records mean anything, Arizona can look forward to great improvement from the WR position.

Another interesting point about coach Wyatt is his ability as a recruiter. He successfully recruited two of the top players, in recent history, to Oklahoma. Adrian Peterson, and Tommie Harris. Like I said, "Midas Touch".

Lamont Lovett is the color analyst for Arizona football games and a former Wildcat player during the ‘Desert Swarm' era.

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