1st and Ten – It’s
Tuitama Time – say that tongue-twister ten times – When the score
was flashed up on the screen late on a Saturday night last season, there
was no way that it could’ve been right, right? 52 – 14? The undefeated
UCLA Bruins going down in flames to a team that was starting a true
freshman QB? No way. Well, yes way, and if the Wildcats turn this
program into a program that plays one extra football game in December or
January each year, they’ll look back to that game and that QB as the
reasons the tide got turned. That QB is Wildcat QB Willie Tuitama who
came in and infused the U of A offense with a mix of ability and
chutzpah. He could be the first star, name Wildcat QB on a national
level. Ortege Jenkins and Keith Smith shared time during the glorious
1998 season and the defense was the star in the early Desert Swarm/Bruschi
days. But, since Tuitama stepped into the lineup, this offense was a
little better, a little more explosive and a little more dangerous, and
that should have everyone in the Pac-10 on red and blue alert this
fall. He had four strong games last year and one total hiccup against
Washington, but it was the 6’3”, 220 pound QB’s performance against
Oregon State on the road and the aforementioned UCLA games that have
most people excited. The key for him this year will be consistency and
growth – continuing to make the right throw to the right receiver at the
right time, managing the game and not forcing plays that aren’t there.
Some players who started as promising true freshmen eventually never
panned out, while there were some QBs who carried their teams from day
one (former NC State star Philip Rivers comes to mind). This Arizona
program might not rise and fall on Tuitama’s every move, but he’ll
definitely be the key figure in this continued program repair that Mike
Stoops has working in Tucson. Repeat after me – it’s Tu-i-ta-ma Time!
2nd and Seven –
Turning the AC on in Tucson – We all know it gets hot in Arizona.
It might be a dry heat, but you know that you can’t live in that great
state without some AC. Well, the Wildcats have that in Antoine Cason,
the Cats’ star corner and the rest of a strong secondary. Given the
past coaching/playing history of both Mike and Mark Stoops, it’s no
wonder that the secondary is big time. And, Cason might be the best of
the bunch. He has good closing speed, has good size (6’1”, 180) and is
highly coachable. Man, who couldn’t use a smart, hard working and
talented cover corner, who’s not afraid to put his hat on someone in
college football or the NFL? Either way, passing games will struggle
facing Cason, Wilrey Fontenot and safety Michael Johnson this year.
And, that gives the Stoops brothers reason to smile…and blitz.
3rd and Three – The
Same, but Different – Arguably the best unit on the field at
Oklahoma during Mike Stoops tenure as defensive coordinator was the
defensive line. Those Sooner defensive linemen were active, aggressive
and most often as athletic, pound for pound, as anyone else on the
field. In the Desert Swarm days, that was the exact same trait for the
Wildcats. Consequently, Stoops wants the same results as he had at
Oklahoma and what was at U of A circa 1992/1993, but he has much
different players. The defensive line isn’t huge, doesn’t have a ton of
experience and doesn’t have a Tommie Harris or a Rob Waldrop. But,
they’re quicker than most lines and have a number of guys who can
contribute to keep everyone fresh. However, teams that can pound the
ball at the Cats, i.e. Oregon with Jonathon Stewart and Cal with
Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett, might find some open running room,
unless this group can slant and stunt to give those two squads, in
particular, some trouble. Keep an eye on this front four this year as
they’ll be a vital key to a seven win season and a potential bowl berth.
One – A new game – Want to see defensive coordinators shake in
their boots? Put a guy with speed in the backfield. A team could hand
the ball to a 235 pound power back all day long, but that doesn’t worry
a defensive coordinator as much as a guy with some serious jets (well,
okay if the 235 pound guy runs a 4.3, then you better get that DC a shot
of Milk of Magnesia). The point of that is the Wildcats are going to
have to find a way to replace last year’s starter Mike Bell, and the man
striding to the plate in the leadoff spot is Chris Henry, a guy who was
a former California state track champion. In other words, he can fly.
This changes things slightly for offensive coordinator Mike Canales and
for Tuitama. Bell was explosive in his own right, but it was more power
running, not the “pick ‘em up and lay ‘em down” type of explosive speed
that Henry possesses. Stoops believes that Henry has that breakaway
speed which gives this offense an ‘option’ they’ve not had recently.
Henry’s ability may make it a new game for the Wildcats this fall.