Next three months crucial for Wildcats

2010-04-12T00:00:00Z Next three months crucial for WildcatsRyan Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
April 12, 2010 12:00 am  • 

Before dismissing his team from Saturday's Spring Game, Arizona Wildcats coach Mike Stoops made a final, crucial, point.

Three's no such thing as a summer vacation.

"The next three months are really the most important three months of the year," Stoops said. "Hopefully, we can have a good out-of-season."

Arizona's football team will spend the next 3 1/2 months recovering, training and preparing for the regular season. The off-season checklist looks like this:

Step 1: Get Healthy

The Wildcats were dogged by injuries near the end of spring drills, a potentially disturbing sign for a team that needs all hands on deck this fall.

Defensive tackle Dominique Austin, guard Vaughn Dotsy and running back Greg Nwoko missed all of spring while recovering from surgeries.

Offensive tackle Phillip Garcia, special-teams star Tito Foster, running back Kylan Butler, wide receiver Terrence Miller and offensive lineman Chris Putton all missed the final two weeks of the spring with various injuries. Garcia played in Saturday's spring game but was clearly limited.

And then there's Nicolas Grigsby. The starting tailback entered camp nursing a shoulder injury, then strained his hamstring midway through while cutting upfield. Grigsby had just one carry in Saturday's Spring Game before the leg injury forced him to the sidelines. He "trucked" safety Robert Golden during a 22-yard run, then crumbled to the ground.

"I tried to explode, and I just felt it," he said.

How the injured players recover during a long summer could dictate what happens this fall.

Step 2: Watch and Learn

Arizona will have plenty to do this summer, even though the NCAA prohibits organized practices. The video department taped every spring workout and scrimmage, giving each player plenty of "cut-ups" to watch during their down time.

While it can be tedious at times, the extra hours spent watching tape are invaluable for young players.

Stoops and his defensive coaches will spend extra time with the linebackers; the UA must replace all three starters from a year ago.

"If we can get our linebacker group solidified in the next three months, we can defensively make some improvements," Stoops said.

Other position players will meet during the summer to clean up their mistakes. The quarterbacks, receivers, running backs, defensive backs and - yes - linebackers will hold informal 7-on-7 drills starting in June. Arizona's linemen will gather to focus on footwork.

"We're going to be getting together as an offensive line and going over protections and all the different stuff we're going to do," center Colin Baxter said. "We're going to be doing drills, getting together and getting everything cleaned up."

Step 3: Grow!

Summer is the best time to prepare for the rigors of a long season. To that end, the Cats will train this the off-season with strength coach Corey Edmond.

Receivers and defensive backs will pay extra attention to their "burst," while linemen will emphasize footwork.

"Right now, it's about just getting faster, getting bigger, getting extra work with our footwork and running routes," cornerback Marcus Benjamin said. "Each position is doing more and more to get better next year."

Safety Joe Perkins called Edmond the key to a successful summer.

"Coach Ed," safety Joe Perkins said. "It's all about him this summer."

Step 4: Wait for reinforcements

The Wildcats will receive help midway through the summer, when incoming freshmen and junior college transfers arrive on campus.

Don't be surprised if a half-dozen or so compete for playing time.

Coaches love safety Marquis Flowers, the jewel of the 2010 signing class.

Three junior college transfers - defensive tackle Willie Mobley, defensive end Mohammed Usman and wide receiver Dexter Ransom - are expected to compete for playing time right away. Long-snapper Chase Gorham, a product of Scottsdale's Chaparral High School, will almost certainly have the first crack at the starting job.

"Getting everybody eligible and healthy - those are always the goals early, especially getting everybody who's here ready to play," Stoops said. "There's a chance we can have everybody healthy and, hopefully, eligible."

 

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