Tuitama must prove to scouts he’s ready for NFLby Anthony Gimino on Aug. 30, 2008, under Sports
A Saturday smorgasbord of sense and nonsense, the college football season-opening edition:
There is little doubt Arizona senior Willie Tuitama will be one of the most productive passers in the NCAA this season.
Tuitama, running a pass-first spread offense for the first time last season, threw for 3,683 yards. Only 12 quarterbacks in the nation had more.
As an NFL prospect, however, Tuitama has a way to go.
He is listed as the ninth-best senior quarterback for next April’s draft by Todd McShay of Scouts Inc. and ESPN. Another trustworthy site, NFLdraftscout.com, rates Tuitama as the 17th-best prospect among senior QBs.
A combination of those rankings puts Tuitama on the fringe of the NFL draft, and that doesn’t take into account juniors who certainly will come out. An average of 12 quarterbacks have been drafted in the past three years.
Bottom line: Tuitama, who has and will continue to rewrite the UA record book, is far from being the first Arizona quarterback drafted since Alfred Jenkins in 1987, and Jenkins was selected as a tight end.
“Part of it is (the NFL scouts) want to see him be more consistent and see him make good decisions game in and game out,” offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes said.
“His mobility is probably something that they have questions about. He’s a little lighter this year, and it seems like he moves around a bit better. I think his footwork and mobility is dramatically improved. Those are two things those guys want to see more out of Willie than they have seen in the past.”
I’ve had my own skepticism about Tuitama, specifically his decision-making ability and his total commitment.
Coaches say those areas improved since last season, but, well, what else are they going to say?
The proof starts Saturday night against Idaho.
Still, considering Tuitama’s size and arm strength, I’m a little surprised he’s not higher on some analyst’s draft boards.
“Willie has the measurables,” Dykes said. “He just has to go out and play well.”
The Matt Scott watch
Few things are as intriguing, as full of wondrous possibilities, as a true freshman quarterback.
Arizona’s Matt Scott is expected to play some – perhaps early – against Idaho, just to get his feet wet and give the defense something else to worry about because of his running skills.
“We have a little package for him,” Dykes said. “It’s nothing too drastic, but I think it’s something that is going to give us a little something different than what we’ve had in the past.”
It’s imperative that the coaches see what they have in Scott before Pac-10 play begins, when the games tighten up and any mistake with the ball is potentially devastating.
The coaches will need to show a good deal of faith in Scott, who won’t turn 18 until the Wildcats play at UCLA on Sept. 20.
Idaho offensive coordinator Steve Axman is on his 16th coaching job at the college and professional level, which includes a stop as offensive coordinator at Arizona from 1980 to 1984.
Axman, a smart cookie who knows the Xs and Os as well as anybody, was the head coach at Northern Arizona from 1990-97.
His offenses at Arizona in the early 1980s were some of the school’s best of the Pac-10 era. He helped spark “The Streak” against Arizona State when his play call on third-and-8 turned into a 92-yard throw-and-dash to Brian Holland in 1982.
Axman is in his second season at Idaho.
Go for it
Arizona doesn’t need to break out a double-reverse halfback pass to the quarterback, but there’s no sense using half the playbook against Idaho and “saving” plays for future opponents. At least that’s what Dykes says.
“We’re going to do what we do,” Dykes said.
“The thing about it is, we’ve had time to get it all in and all sorted out,” he said. “For us, we’re not going to hold anything back.”
• Be sure to take a look at Arizona Stadium’s Ring of Fame, which has added the names of the late Mike Dawson and 2007 Jim Thorpe Award winner Antoine Cason.
• Idaho’s all-time record vs. current Pac-10 teams: 34-231-9. It has been outscored by 4,395 points in those games.
• Idaho’s top offensive player is tailback Deonte Jackson, the nephew of ex-Oregon State and current St. Louis Rams back Steven Jackson. Deonte ran for 1,175 yards in 2007, 99 vs. USC.
The envelope, please
UA has never had a season in which it scored at least 40 points in a game more than three times. This should be that season.
Arizona must start now. Idaho is one of the worst programs in the country. It’s a nondescript team with a small defensive line and two senior starters on defense. The Vandals’ pass rush is nearly nonexistent. Idaho had a mere 16 sacks last season, eight by returning defenders. Arizona’s offense should play pass-and-catch all night.
If UA is serious about keeping the accelerator pressed, the score could reach into the 50s.
Playing it safer, let’s call it 42-14, Cats.