The buzzword for Arizona Wildcats quarterback Nick Foles last spring was “footwork.” This spring, let’s try “recognition.”
“What we have to do is quicken his recognition skills,” said quarterbacks coach Frank Scelfo. “We really have to spend a lot of time on anticipation, on some throws, recognizing coverages, routes, guys that he’s throwing to …”
With that improved footwork — still needs to get better, said Scelfo, always coaching — Foles is coming off a junior season in which he finished 34th nationally in passing efficiency with a rating of 140.86. That was the fifth-best mark in school history.
He missed two games because of a dislocated kneecap and played a couple of games after that with less than complete mobility.
Scelfo, in his second season with the Wildcats, expects to see a smoother, more consistent effort from Foles.
“That was the first year where there were a lot of changes he had to make,” Scelfo said. “We’re through those changes. Now we have more subtleties we have to work on. Now, he should be able to rely on some experience because of the continuity.”
Foles completed 286 of 426 passes for 3,191 yards last season. If he hadn’t been injured for two-and-half games, he likely would have broken Arizona’s season completion record of 327, set by Willie Tuitama in 2007, and the school’s record for passing yardage in a season. Tuitama also set that record — 3,683 yards — in 2007.
But that last memory of the 2010 season is Foles’ three-interception game in an Alamo Bowl loss to Oklahoma State. One of those picks was returned for a touchdown.
“Great players don’t have bad days,” Scelfo said.
“They might make a bad play, but they don’t have bad days. Well, last spring we had some times when we had some bad days. We had a game or two this year where it was a bad game, not just a bad play.
“That is what I don’t expect. I expect some bad plays — that happens to everybody; I don’t care what level you’re at or how good you are. What I don’t want to happen is the bad day.”
Arizona returns the vast majority of its receiving corps, including All-America candidate Juron Criner, plus adds Texas transfer Dan Buckner this season.
With one of the top receiving groups in the country and an offense that coach Mike Stoops says could lean more toward a full-time pass-happy spread, Foles could be in line for a huge year.
For sure, he has his teammates’ respect after leading two game-winning drives last season and a third that went for naught when Alex Zendejas missed an extra point in the final minute against Arizona State.
“Nick does a great job of developing a relationship with the players,” Scelfo said. “From a leadership standpoint, he really is good.”
Now, about those recognition skills …