UA FOOTBALL

Arizona football: Scooby, Nate show bite

Freshmen LB Wright, WR Phillips making names for themselves
2013-08-21T00:00:00Z 2013-08-21T08:17:16Z Arizona football: Scooby, Nate show biteDaniel Berk Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
August 21, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Despite being two of the best freshmen in fall camp, linebacker Phillip Anthony Wright III and wide receiver James Nathan Phillips aren't exactly household names for the Arizona Wildcats.

In fact, you won't even find them on the team's roster.

Look up Scooby Wright and Nate Phillips, and you'll have better luck.

We'll let them fill you in.

"My birth name is Phillip Anthony Wright III and they called my grandpa 'Phillip' and my dad 'Phil,'" Wright said. "Ever since I was a baby, my dad was always like, 'He's my little Scooby Doo.'

"I don't think my parents have called me Phillip a day in my life. When I walked across the stage for my high school graduation a few days before I came here, some of my very best friends had no idea Phillip was my real name."

That explains Wright.

And what about his offensive teammate?

"James is my real (first) name," Phillips said. "On all of my official documents, it says James. So, I wrote James down on the paper when I got here. But, everyone knows me as Nate because my name is James Nathan, and my parents just always called me Nate.

"It's going to stay Nate for a while."

Whatever their names are, the two true freshmen can play.

Here's a closer look at the two camp sensations:

Scooby Wright

Hometown: Santa Rosa, Calif.

Size: 6-1, 235

Backstory: Wright was rated as a two-star recruit by the Scout.com recruiting service and had no other scholarship offers. But UA coach Rich Rodriguez liked what he saw on film and knew the linebacker could help the Wildcats right away.

"He was one of those guys where you watch five or six plays of his highlights and you say, 'This is the kind of guy we want,'" Rodriguez said. "Then you find out more about him, get to know who he is and his family and what he's all about - he's been everything we thought and then some.

"He's going to play as a true freshman in a lot of roles for us."

What he's working on: Wright said there are a few major things he's trying to clean up. Technique wise, the outside linebacker is trying to use his hands more and stay low in his pads. Mentally, Wright said he just relied on his physical toughness and effort at Cardinal Newman High in Santa Rosa. Now, he's working with UA defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel on being more cerebral.

In his own words: "Arizona was my first offer. They offered in June before the camp circuit. I went to Boise State and they said they were going to offer me, but they never did. Arizona took a chance on me. They didn't need to see anything more. They saw my film and they knew they liked me. When they did that, I felt like I might as well commit and I'm very happy I did."

Nate Phillips

Hometown: Chandler

Size: 5-7, 171

Backstory: Phillips, a Chandler Basha High School product, was rated as the 189th best receiver in the country by Scout and had offers from the UA, Air Force, NAU and North Dakota. Hometown ASU wasn't interested.

"Coach (Calvin) Magee went up there and saw him in practice and came back and said 'this kid is pretty good,'" receivers coach Tony Dews said. "And then he worked on our seven-on-seven camp here and every route he ran - in 105, 110-degree weather - was full speed.

"We went to watch him play Chandler High and they were double-teaming him and he still caught eight balls.

"He's a competitive guy and every time he lines up, he plays hard."

What he's working on: Like Wright, Phillips is trying hard to get the mental part of the game down. He spent the summer in Tucson working with veterans Austin Hill, Terrence Miller, Garic Wharton and Johnny Jackson. His goal was to be knowledgeable of Rodriguez's complex offense by the start of camp, which he thought he was.

Wright, who will play in the slot, also wanted to make sure his speed was up to par. He knows how fast the Wildcats like to play and he was eager to show he was in shape.

In his own words: "I think Arizona liked my tenacity. In high school, I took a lot of hits because I never wanted to go down and always wanted that extra yard. I think here, that's what they want in a player; a guy that's willing to go that extra mile or claw and scratch to get us into the end zone. I think that's what they wanted - guys that give something the opponent won't."

Extra points

• Rodriguez announced after practice that junior tight end Michael Cooper has left the program. The Wildcats now have just one scholarship player - Josh Kern - listed at the position. Miller will also play some tight end and will likely see more action there now with Cooper's departure.

"Coop is exploring his options," Rodriguez said. "He may stay in school here and not play football or he may transfer somewhere else. He's a great young man - a good student and whatever he wants to do, we're going to support him and wish him the best."

• The Arizona Cardinals now have three former Wildcats on their roster after they signed receiver Mike Thomas on Tuesday following his release by Detroit.

Cornerback Antoine Cason and receiver Dan Buckner are the other ex-Cats on the roster so far.

On StarNet: Follow the Cats on Daniel Berk's blog at azstarnet.com/berk

Key dates

• Friday: Scrimmage on campus

• Aug. 30 (Friday): Season opener at Arizona Stadium vs. NAU, 7 p.m. on Pac-12 Arizona

Training camp: day 18

• Temperature at start: 86 degrees and sunny at 8:40 a.m.

• Newcomer to watch: Cornerback Devin Holiday continues to impress his coaches and teammates in the third week of camp. Expect the San Diego native to play as a true freshman and see plenty of time on the field.

• The big number: 2: For the second time this camp, coach Rich Rodriguez canceled the team's night practice after a morning session. Instead, the team went took part in a walk-through and began preparing for the Aug. 30 opener against NAU.

Contact reporter Daniel Berk at dberk@azstarnet.com or 573-4330. On Twitter @DSBerk

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


Pac-12 South football standings

  Conference Overall
Team W L T PCT W L T PCT
Arizona 7 2 0 0.778 10 3 0 0.769
USC 6 3 0 0.667 8 4 0 0.667
UCLA 6 3 0 0.667 9 3 0 0.750
Arizona State 6 3 0 0.667 9 3 0 0.750
Utah 5 4 0 0.556 9 4 0 0.692
Colorado 0 9 0 0.000 2 10 0 0.167

Pac-12 North football standings

  Conference Overall
Team W L T PCT W L T PCT
Oregon 8 1 0 0.889 12 1 0 0.923
Stanford 5 4 0 0.556 7 5 0 0.583
Washington 4 5 0 0.444 8 5 0 0.615
Cal 3 6 0 0.333 5 7 0 0.417
Washington State 2 7 0 0.222 3 9 0 0.250
Oregon State 2 7 0 0.222 5 7 0 0.417
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