Inside 'The Unit', The Quarterbacks

With a new offensive system in place for the Arizona Wildcats fans, players and coaches alike are looking forward to the 2007 season. One thing the new system demands is good and consistent play out of the quarterback position and the Cats have a good group of signal callers that should be able to get the job done.

Willie Tuitama leads a group of very different quarterbacks. The strong armed junior has many intangibles needed to be a successful Pac-10 quarterback. First and foremost Tuitama now has the experience to get the job done. The winning streak at the end of last season proved that, when healthy, the Cats are a completely different team with Tuitama under center. But that also leads to the major question surrounding Tuitama and the offense in general. Can Willie stay healthy for an entire year?

The new offensive system brought in by Sonny Dykes should in and of itself help keep the Poly signal caller healthy. The quick release, snap decision offense is designed for the quarterback to get rid of the ball quickly so expect Willie to rarely be holding the ball for more than three seconds from snap to throw. Offensive line play will also be a major factor in keeping Tuitama healthy and six guys returning that have starting experience that should be an easier task in 2007.

Tuitama has amassed decent numbers in his first two years in Tucson. In 15 career games under center he has completed nearly 57 percent of his passes for over 2,400 yards while throwing for 16 touchdowns and has a career pass efficiency rating of 123.40.

The backup role will be served by Senior Kris Heavner. Heavner originally was a Wildcat before transferring to Baylor for less than a semester and then returning to Tucson where he made an attempt to make Andy Lopez's baseball squad. Now back with the football team for his senior season Heavner could be counted on heavily if Tuitama goes down for any reason. The well traveled senior has seen it all and finally seems to be settled in with a system that fits his abilities.

Heavner has had an up and down career as a Cat but he has totaled some fairly decent numbers in his time in the Old Pueblo. Playing under three different offensive coordinators and tree different offenses (the new system being the third) he has completed 51 percent of his passes for over 2,500 yards and 12 touchdowns in 19 career games played in a Wildcat uniform. His career pass efficiency rating is 105.96.

The third strong quarterback is where things get a little more questionable. Most think the third spot on the chart is manned by Tyler Lyon and that is what the official depth chart lists as well, but many also think that true freshman Bryson Beirne will be the man on the line if push comes to shove and Tuitama and Heavner both get injured.

Lyon, a red shirt freshman, enters his first season on the travel squad with high praise and a higher level of talent. He comes from Hart High School in southern California which has been known as a Pac-10 quarterback factory, with Lyon being the latest man off the assembly line. Lyon grew up with football on the brain as his father is a nationally respected head coach at the junior college level.

Throughout the spring and fall camps Lyon has shown some glimpses of greatness but more often than not he has shown a lack of consistency, which is where the heat from Beirne comes in. Beirne came to Tucson in early June ready to roll and work his way onto the field as a true freshman. He quickly learned the offense and throughout fall camp he has shown a bit more consistency and grip of the system than Lyon has so far.

If the Cats find themselves on either side of a blow out then there is no question that Lyon will get the call to try and preserve Beirne's red shirt but in the case of injury and the best man is needed on the field to win a game, don't be shocked if Beirne gets the call over Lyon, even this week as the Cats play at BYU. Beirne was added to the travel squad and will make the trip to Provo with the rest of the Wildcats as they open their 2007 season.

The Cats also boast a decent corps of walk on quarterbacks on the roster. Jimmy Bevell is a heralded high school signal caller that returned from his church mission and entered the University in January. John Sanders is a red shirt freshman from Scottsdale, Arizona and C.J. Sedoris is a sophomore from Las Vegas. As a group the walk-ons add a lot to the scout teams and preparations for the Wildcats.

The Lineup

Willie Tuitama, Junior

Kris Heavner, Senior

Tyler Lyon, Red Shirt Freshman

Bryson Beirne, Freshman

Jimmy Bevell, Freshman

C.J. Sedoris, Sophomore

John Sanders, Red Shirt Freshman

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