ARIZONA FOOTBALL

A time for questions

Linebacker, depth in secondary key concerns for Cats
2010-08-01T00:00:00Z A time for questionsRyan Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
August 01, 2010 12:00 am  • 

The Arizona Wildcats were in the middle of a voluntary workout last week when Nick Foles put his off-season training to the test.

The UA's starting quarterback walked to Arizona Stadium's 50-yard line, took a knee and - while his teammates watched - launched a pass through the back of the end zone, between the goal posts and into the stands.

"I had been working on my core (strength) during the season," he said. "I thought I could do it, so I tried it."

OK, so Foles' arm strength won't be an issue when the Wildcats open training camp Thursday. But Arizona still has issues.

Here are five questions to consider as the Wildcats begin preparations for the Sept. 3 opener at Toledo:

1. Does experience - or a lack of it - count at linebacker?

Mike Stoops has spent much of his summer worrying about the linebacker positions. The Wildcats will open camp with three newcomers - juniors Paul Vassallo and Derek Earls and sophomore Jake Fischer - penciled in at the linebacker spots. Vassallo and Earls were midyear junior college transfers, while Fischer - an Ironwood Ridge High School product - played mostly on special teams last fall.

None of the three linebackers has ever started a Division I college game.

2. Can Adam Grant tackle the left side? The injury-plagued offensive lineman was finally healthy - and productive - in 2009, registering 13 starts at right tackle for a UA line that allowed one sack per game. Grant will move to left tackle for his sixth and final college season.

Stoops said Grant, 24, will be a quick learner. "Last year, he came on and was one of our premier players," he said. "He is much more polished and stronger."

3. Is secondary depth a primary problem?

Trevin Wade and Marcus Benjamin will open camp as the starting cornerbacks, with Joe Perkins and Robert Golden at the safety spots.

After that, things get murky. Though great things are expected of sophomore Adam Hall and true freshman Marquis Flowers, the Wildcats will need more than just a two-deep roster to be productive. Wade impressed coaches playing in mop-up time as a true freshman in 2008. Benjamin, a junior college transfer, played well as a backup against USC last fall.

4. Can wide receiver Juron Criner carry the offense? Criner was a breakout star in 2009, catching 45 passes for 582 yards and a team-best nine touchdowns. With Rob Gronkowski in the NFL and Delashaun Dean off the team for a weapons violation, Criner will be counted on to carry the Cats' attack.

"Juron is just a playmaker," Foles said, "and he's even better this year."

5. Who is Frank Scelfo, and why is he a difference-maker?

If you answered "Arizona's quarterbacks coach," you're right. Scelfo's job title is important. Unlike Sonny Dykes, who was a hybrid offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach, Scelfo will focus specifically on QBs.

The former Louisiana Tech and Tulane assistant has already improved Nick Foles' footwork, and reworked Matt Scott's throwing motion.

"Sonny was more of a schematic guy, more big-picture. ... That took away from teaching the proper fundamentals," Stoops said. "Nick has already gotten a lot better because his fundamentals have gotten better."

CAMP SCHEDULE

Practices are closed to public unless otherwise noted.

• Tuesday: Newcomers report

• Wednesday: Returners report

• Thursday: First training camp practice, 6 a.m.

• Friday: Practice, 6 a.m.

• Saturday: Practice, 6 a.m.; team photo day, 11:30 a.m.

• Sunday: Practice, 6 a.m.

COMING AUG. 29

Your 26-page guide to the 2010 college football season.

ARIZONA TRAINING CAMP DEPTH CHART

OFFENSE

Pos. First team Second team

X Juron Criner Gino Crump

SHB David Douglas Bug Wright

STE David Roberts Terrence Miller

TE A.J. Simmons Jack Baucus

LT Adam Grant Jack Julsing

LG Conan Amituanai Chris Putton

C Colin Baxter Kyle Quinn

RG Vaughn Dotsy Jovon Hayes

RT Phil Garcia Jack Julsing

QB Nick Foles Matt Scott

RB Nicolas Grigsby Keola Antolin

Z Travis Cobb Gino Crump

DEFENSE

Pos. First team Second team

DE Ricky Elmore D'Aundre Reed

DT Sione Tuihalamaka Dominique Austin

DT Lolomana Mikaele Jowyn Ward

DE Brooks Reed Apaiata Tuihalamaka

SLB Jake Fischer Cordarius Golston

MLB Derek Earls Trevor Erno

WLB Paul Vassallo, R.J. Young

SS Robert Golden Anthony Wilcox

CB Marcus Benjamin Mike Turner

FS Joe Perkins Adam Hall

CB Trevin Wade Lyle Brown

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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