Cats Open Football Camp
DOUGLAS, Ariz.--The University of Arizona football team concluded its first day of fall practice at Cochise College near here Wednesday with little fanfare and an apparent air of business as usual in its season-opening preparations.
Contrasted to a year ago when UA was ranked No. 3 in the preseason coaches poll and subject to some widespread scrutiny because of an opener at Penn State, the 2000 camp opened with the Cats unranked and the focus of a normal media contingent in attendance.
Head coach Dick Tomey appeared comfortable with the change but, as usual, offered little evaluation of the Cats after a single day.
"Today's the easiest day we'll have, but they seem to be working very hard. It's like sucking on a fire hose for most of the new people -- tying to assimilate everything," he said.
Tomey did cite sophomore linebacker Lance Briggs, who played fullback a year ago. "He's going to be a really terrific player. I'm not sure when, but that will be when he just turns it loose and plays, and doesn't 'think.' He's not as strong as he'll be and not fully developed, but he's a collider, a hitter. I don't think he has any limitations."
Briggs, who switched positions in spring ball, is a listed starter inside with Antonio Pierce, and would be one of UA's new defenders. "But we'll have some new guys all over on defense. We could have (redshirt freshman cornerback) Michael Jolivette, (redshirt junior strong safety) Brandon Nash and the other corner position. We certainly won't be greybeards back there, but we've been a good defense with new people before," Tomey said.
Nash switched from wide receiver to safety and redshirted in 1999. "We missed him lasst year," Tomey said. "He blocked two kicks in 1998 and made a couple of big plays against Washington and Nebraska to help us win. He's going to be a plus for us."
Several positions will be hotly contested, Tomey said, but none more so than the no. 2 quarterback spot behind senior Ortege Jenkins and the placekicking job.
Sophomore Jason Johnson has limited game experience but a redshirt season and a freshman year in the program, but redshirt freshman Clint Watkins had a good spring and got his share of repetitions on opening day.
The incumbent placekicker, Sean Keel, was five for eight on field goals last year and will see stiff competition from incoming freshman Doug Jones and redshirt freshman Bobby Gill. Each hit on about 80 percent of 35- to 40-yard kicks on a dozen attempts prior to the afternoon practice.
UA opens the year Sept. 2 at Utah. Training camp at Cochise College is a seven-day affair this year, compared to 11 days last season.
The Cats will continue practices in shorts or half-pads until Sunday morning when full contact will be allowed by NCAA rules.
UA broke its first day into three 90 minute sessions -- two in the morning separated by a 45-minute indoor rest period, and one in the late afternoon. That schedule will be followed Friday, Sunday, Monday and on the final day of camp Wednesday. The other days include morning walk-throughs, some split-squad workouts and one solid full-team session.
NOTES... Senior quarterback Ortege Jenkins had six-for-15 day in morning skeleton and 'zone' passing drills, but had a couple of potential touchdown type throws dropped by receivers. He had one touchdown toss to sophomore receiver Bobby Wade... Briggs caused Jenkins to fumble on a quarterback draw, which caused the defense to chortle wildly when Jenkins endured subsequent fumble-recovery drills from offensive coordinator Dino Babers. Redshirt freshman cornerback David Hinton had the first interception of camp, on a Jason Johnson throw tipped by safety Zaharius Johnson... Junior letterman anthony Banks picked off a Jenkins' pass in the afternoon drills... The team is outfitted in shoes more typically designed solely for practice rather than games in an attempt to reduce some of the ankle injuries suffered at last year's camp. Equipment director Wendell Neal said the shoes are a bit heavier, with higher support and a wider sole... Several players including potential starting tailback Leon Callen and potential backup defensive end Tony Thompson were not in camp but remained in Tucson for summer school academic requirements...