Arizona Wildcats quarterback Nick Foles held court for a few reporters after last week’s first spring practice, and he was even more fired up than usual. I’m hoping that energy translates to the internet in this Q&A.
With all the hoops stuff going on, I didn’t get this particularly quickly, but I think there’s still timely stuff here as Foles answered questions from me, Channel 11′s Vinnie Vinzetta and the Arizona Daily Star’s Sarah Trotto.
Foles, a senior, will be entering his third season as the starter, and he will be directing an offense that is focusing more on an up-tempo spread attack this spring.
Arizona has the receivers to make it work, as coach Mike Stoops calls this the best skill players he has had as he enters his eighth season.
Here is Foles:
On having receiver Juron Criner on one side and Dan Buckner on the other side:
FOLES: “What I love about Juron is that he is really pushing it this year. He’s not satisfied. He wants to be the best receiver in the nation. And he doesn’t just say it; he goes out and puts in the work. Dan is the same way. You’ve got David Douglas, Dave Roberts, Terrence (Miller), all those guys as a whole … what’s neat about them is they’re buddies, they work together, they have fun, they compete. They will tell each other the truth. They will keep it real with one another, like, ‘Hey, man, you’ve got to run your route better.’ I think they could be a very good group. …
“I’m a very lucky quarterback, no doubt. But I have to continue to push these guys. I want them to get to where they need to be. They can always better. Juron will tell you straight up, he can be better. He had a great year, but you have to have guys around you. Juron isn’t doing it by himself. He makes some great plays, but we have receivers that threaten and take away the safeties and all those things. They are a good group, but I want them to be great. They all want to be the best. That’s what I love about them. As a quarterback, I’m not going to tell them that. I want to push them to be better than they thought they could be.”
On the young offensive line:
FOLES: “I’ve gotten to know the guys. You have (junior center) Kyle (Quinn) anchoring the line. He’s grown up a lot. We have team meetings where we’re talking and we’re going through plays and I’m going through reads, and Kyle is nailing everything. As a quarterback, I love seeing that. We have very athletic young guys. They’re raw. And we have a lot of time to work with them. I’m having fun. They’re having a good time. We have a new O-line coach (Robert Anae). It’s exciting to see. They’re going to get there. I’m going to make sure of it.”
On establishing a relationship with Tom Savage, who is transferring from Rutgers:
FOLES: “I told him everything I could. I wasn’t holding anything back. I know what the situation is like. I shared my experienced with what I went through (as a transfer). I told him what it was like here. What it is like as a player. What it is like as a student. And I told him what it was like to work with (quarterbacks coach Frank Scelfo).
“Coach Scelfo is a great coach and a great man. He is one of those guys who after I’m doing playing here, I’m going to come back and visit him; I’m going to play golf or do something with him. That’s the kind of coach he is. I was like, sometimes you’ll go some place and the coach will be all rah-rah or whatever, and then you get on the practice field and he’s a totally different person. What you see with Coach Scelfo is what you get. And I think that’s the most important thing. He’s going to make you fundamentally better in every way.
“I told him everything I could. I didn’t want to leave anything from him. I told him, this is a big decision you’re making. I wasn’t going to force him into any direction; I want what’s best for him because that’s a big decision when you transfer. I’m glad he’s coming. He’s a very good quarterback. A great guy. I got to know a little bit on his recruiting visit. Took him around. He has a great family. He’ll be a good fit for this team.”
On the mood on the first day of practice:
FOLES: “We’re having fun. I think that’s the most important thing. We’re flying around; guys are competing. We have a young O-line and a young D-line, so a lot of times you think, ‘Oh, man, guys are going to be a little hesitant,’ but the guys are flying around, working hard. The big thing I liked was nobody was afraid to make a mistake. There would be dropped balls or missed throws and you just keep going. People weren’t getting down, they were flying around, they were fixing it, and that’s what I like to see.”
On using the five-game losing streak to end last season as a motivating factor:
FOLES: “You learn from it. We looked at the film. We looked at what we messed up on. That’s why we tweaked our offense. You learn from mistakes and you make your offense better from it, and you make your team better from it. We use that as a learning tool to move forward. It’s not like we’re going to get mad about it. It’s the past.”
On what his personal point of emphasis is this season:
FOLES: “I think my biggest goal is to just rally the guys around me. As a leader, you have to make everybody else better. My goal is to get everybody me better and get everybody moving in the right direction. I think we’ve done a great of job of that. Coach Stoops and the coaches, we incorporated a lot of competition this spring and the offseason. And I have to work on everything — footwork, fundamentals — that’s going to be a constant as long as I play this game.”
On spreading the ball to so many receivers:
FOLES: “They all want the ball, and I think that’s pretty cool… Buckner might say something every once in a while, because, if you’ve been around Buckner, you know he’s a character. But we love him. You’ve got to have players like that. They complement each other in a good way.”
On the running game:
FOLES: “We’ve got to establish a running game this year. We didn’t do a good job of it last year. We have too talented of running backs not to do it. I think we’re going to put our running backs in better situations this year to get them some holes and let them show y’all what they can do.”