FOOTBALL

UA football: Coaches keep Cats' ears, legs busy

2012-03-19T00:00:00Z 2012-03-19T07:11:28Z UA football: Coaches keep Cats' ears, legs busyRyan Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
March 19, 2012 12:00 am  • 

It took just two practices for Arizona Wildcats players to sense a difference in their new coaching staff.

That sense: their hearing.

"They're going to yell at us, and we expect that" safety Tra'Mayne Bondurant said. "We know it's out of love."

The Wildcats should expect more sensory overload this week. The team will return to practice Wednesday after taking two weeks off for spring break. If Arizona's third practice is anything like the first two, it's going to be loud.

UA coaches wasted little time imposing their will when spring drills opened. Armed with full-throated voices, whistles and - seriously - an air-raid siren, coach Rich Rodriguez and his new assistants implemented their new system of practicing over a pair of two-hour workouts.

Each workout is broken into 20 five-minute periods. Players are expected to sprint on and off the field, and to dash from one drill to another. Those who do not are admonished.

One Wildcat - his name is being protected to save his sanity - spent his first practice learning simply how to run off the field following a play. Rodriguez asked him to do it a handful of times before, finally happy with the effort, he moved on to another player.

There's a method behind the coaches' madness.

Rodriguez's spread-option offense operates at blazing speed, often out of a no-huddle look. Players must be physically fit enough to handle the breakneck pace.

Rodriguez's 2010 Michigan team, his last one at the school, ran 941 plays over 13 games. Arizona's 2010 team, which also qualified for a bowl game, had 959.

The difference? Michigan ran the ball - and the clock - on 64 percent of its plays. The Wildcats threw on 54 percent of their plays; the clock stopped on each of their 157 incompletions.

The go-go-go offense affects the new 3-3-5 "odd stack" defense, too.

The Wildcats' blueshirts must defend the scheme in practice and, starting this fall, on Saturday.

Oregon's "Blur" offense relies on many of the same principles as the spread-option, and Washington State will run Mike Leach's no-huddle "Air Raid."

The Wildcats should have an edge, safety Adam Hall said, which they didn't have a year ago.

"The pace is probably the biggest difference between the old style and now," he said. "We want it to be known: We're going to out-hustle you because we're going to be like that on every snap. We're going to outwork you.

"It's full-speed, every time."

Three storylines to watch this week

1. Arizona's line depth. The Wildcats will return from spring break rested, but thin. Starting left tackle Mickey Baucus is out as he recovers from back surgery; Arizona's projected starter at right tackle, Fabbians Ebbele, is out indefinitely while he faces a criminal assault charge. With virtually no depth at tackle, UA coaches will consider moving a few players around: Trent Spurgeon has seen time at left tackle, and Salpointe Catholic product Jacob Arzouman - normally a center - has taken some snaps with the first team.

2. Backup quarterbacks. Former wide receiver Richard Morrison impressed coaches in his first two practices, but the learning curve will get steeper starting this week. From a practicality purpose, he's key: The faster Morrison learns the offense, the better "reps" Arizona's second-team receivers and backs will get.

3. First scrimmage coming. The Wildcats will hold their first public scrimmage Saturday in Phoenix. Although coach Rich Rodriguez has slow-played the importance of spring scrimmages, there's bound to be intense interest on how the Wildcats play, and look.

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