The Cats are hoping a bowl win, and not a loss to ASU that included this interception by Osahon Irabor, defines their season.


The Arizona Wildcats' Saturdays are packed with hours of pregame busywork, from bus rides and Wildcat Walks to the three M's - meetings, meals and movies.

It's so busy, Mickey Baucus says, that there's barely enough time to get nervous before kickoff.

"You're not thinking about, 'Hey, I've got a 290-pound defensive end coming at me tonight,' " he said.

Not that Baucus is the worrying type, anyway. With just over a week left before the Sept. 3 opener against NAU, the Wildcats' left tackle is teeming with confidence.

The hulking redshirt freshman is expected to anchor a revamped offensive line in 2011. Just one of the Cats' projected five starters, center Kyle Quinn has starting experience - and, even then, it's only one game.

Here are three things you need to know about the 6-foot-8-inch, 303-pound tackle:

1. You might be surprised that Baucus is playing so soon, but he's not. Playing time was one of the main reasons Baucus committed to the UA as a senior at Carmel Catholic High School in Mundelein, Ill. The coach who recruited him at the time, former UA assistant Bill Bedenbaugh, knew that starters Phil Garcia and Adam Grant would be out of the program by 2011. Baucus, who was named a second-team all-state selection by the Chicago Tribune as a senior, chose the UA over offers from Akron, Buffalo and Miami (Ohio). The decision was simple, he said. "One of the reasons I came here is because I had an opportunity to play early," he said.

2. He's working on consistency. Baucus mastered the UA's blocking schemes and learned to identify opposing defenses while he redshirted as a true freshman in 2010, and has since been working on staying consistent. Coaches have been impressed with Baucus' form, given his size, and love his nastiness at the point of attack. Coach Mike Stoops said Baucus, 19, "has gotten better, like a lot of our players."

The blind-side blocker has a chance to get even better.

"There are a lot of things I'm good at. I just need to keep doing those things consistently," he said. "I can't take a bad play off."

If Baucus' goals seem extraordinarily high, that's because they are. He says his goal this season is to win every single snap, regardless of the opponent.

"I figure that's the standard any football player should set for himself," he said. "If he can't try to be perfect on every play, he shouldn't be out there."

3. He's teaching as he's learning. Baucus has spent the last month explaining the finer points of the position to his older brother, Jack, a former tight end who was moved to the offensive line shortly after training camp started. Jack Baucus played tackle and center before injuring his leg last week; it's not known how much time he will miss.

Mickey Baucus said he's happy to "do whatever I can to help the transition, make it easier" for his brother.

"With other positions, you're reading the DBs and linebackers and moving forward from the line," he said. "On the O-line, you're going to backpedal the whole time. You have to pick up the guys coming at you. It's a whole different game."

There's almost no time to get nervous.

"I guess it's always kind of there, in the back of your mind," he said. "But if you play nervous, you're not at your best. If you prepare well, it's a lot easier to block out everything else."

Coming Sunday

The Star's 2011 college football preview section

• Season opener: Sept. 3 vs. Northern Arizona