ARIZONA FOOTBALL

Time to light a fire

Coaches step up intensity to help mold army of won
2010-08-13T00:00:00Z 2014-09-15T09:08:39Z Time to light a fireRyan Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
August 13, 2010 12:00 am  • 

FORT HUACHUCA - Army recruits reporting for basic training are issued blue "stress cards" that can be deployed the second they feel intimidated by platoon sergeants.

The Arizona Wildcats could have used a stack of them during Thursday's two-a-day at Fort Huachuca.

The UA football coaches ripped players for nearly five combined hours, reminding them - in terms ranging from gentle to downright unprintable - that the season opener is just three weeks away. The quiet, professional vibe that dominated training camp at Rincon Vista has been replaced by a sense of urgency on the Army installation.

"You've got to be intense," coach Mike Stoops said. "Sometimes, you've got to light a fire under somebody's butt to get them to do anything."

Maybe Stoops was still smarting from Tuesday's on-campus scrimmage, when the defense allowed nearly 9 yards per play. Or maybe he saw the team's injury report, which listed a handful of rotation players - fullback Taimi Tutogi, safety Marquis Flowers, guards Vaughn Dotsy and Conan Amituanai and wide receiver Juron Criner - as "out" for reasons ranging from concussions to knee and back problems.

It's more likely, though, that Stoops was angry at Arizona's own version of Army recruits - freshmen.

A half-dozen or more newbies could play right away, Stoops said, provided they learn to practice with a purpose.

"We've got some guys who have to get better," Stoops said. "The younger guys don't really know a sense of urgency, how to play at his level and the competitive nature.

"We have some talented young players who need to learn - fast."

Stoops and his assistants have focused their attention on five players. Flowers and cornerbacks Shaquille Richardson and Jonathan McKnight are all polished enough to compete for playing time. Offensively, a pair of wide receivers - Tyler Slavin and Austin Hill - are making a case for playing time. The Wildcats must replace Delashaun Dean, who was kicked off the team following a gun arrest this summer; Criner did not travel to Fort Huachuca with the team because of the aftereffects of a concussion suffered Sunday.

In a way, the Wildcats' biggest problems are related. The injuries have forced younger, less-experienced players into key roles. When they mess up, as a few did in Tuesday's scrimmage, the backlash is severe.

Stoops had a point on Thursday, defensive end Ricky Elmore said.

"The last six days or so, he's talked about working hard," Elmore said. "People keep making the little errors that can hurt you in the long run - Coach Stoops has a purpose to what he's doing. People are making mistakes they can't be making."

The Wildcats will spend the next few days working hard - and bonding - on the installation. They will hold an 8a.m. practice this morning, then head to a remote part of Fort Huachuca to tackle a leadership reaction course and a gun simulator.

Stoops smiled - and given the way Thursday went, that's saying something - when asked about the benefits of practice at Fort Huachuca.

When the Wildcats are Army strong, success is typically in the cards.

"We're 2-0 when it comes to (making) bowl games, and that's good. We've gotten better since we've been here," he said. "There's a lot of good that comes out of this trip - not just football-wise, but character-wise and life-wise."

On StarNet: Follow the Arizona Wildcats during camp on reporter Ryan Finley's blog at: go.azstarnet.com/finley

UA AT THE FORT

Practices at Fort Huachuca and in Sierra Vista are open to the public.

• Today: 8-10 a.m.

• Saturday: 8:30-10:30 a.m., 4:30 p.m. scrimmage at Sierra Vista Buena High School

TRAINING CAMP INSIDER

Day 8 at Fort Huachuca

• Highlights: The Arizona Wildcats' first two-a-day practice of training camp was a stressful one. Coach Mike Stoops went after his starting defenders during Thursday morning's practice for a lackluster effort in 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills. The evening practice was better, but the UA still struggled with the basics - notably the blitz. Arizona's offense was a step ahead in head-to-head drills. A.J. Simmons made the catch of camp in the evening practice, leaping and grabbing Matt Scott's pass one-handed. Scott hit Travis Cobb for a 60-yard touchdown on the final play of the evening practice. Bug Wright had an impressive touchdown catch in the morning workout. Foles rested in the evening practice, taking part in 7-on-7s but leaving the 11-on-11s to Scott. The Wildcats practiced in their navy blue helmets for the first time in camp.

• Weather: 82 degrees and pleasant for the night practice. The morning was warmer - 90 degrees, with the turf at Warrior Field registering 105.

• Injury report: Safety Marquis Flowers missed the day's practices because of a concussion. He joins a growing list of injured Wildcats. Fullback Taimi Tutogi (sprained ankle), wide receiver Juron Criner (concussion) and offensive guards Vaughn Dotsy (back surgery) and Conan Amituanai (sprained knee) are all out with their injuries. Linebacker Paul Vassallo went down with an ankle injury halfway through the morning practice, but took part in the late workout.

• The big number: 7. Number of defensive starters the Wildcats must replace this fall.

Ryan Finley

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