Arizona wore shoulder pads on Saturday for the first time in fall camp — it will be full pads on Monday — and the Wildcats held their most spirited practice of the first three days.
And by spirited, we mean there were fights.
They happened late in practice during 11-on-11 drills, and the first one started with some late pushing and shoving between offense and defense, with new offensive right tackle Jack Baucus in that mix.
Often, these things are broken up quickly but the scuffle grew from there, eventually with most of the Wildcats coming off the sidelines and several ending in a pile.
No one got hurt, so coach Mike Stoops wasn’t complaining.
“That tells me they’re competing, and that’s important,” he said.
“I think our toughness as a team needs to improve all the way through. In tough situations (last season), we didn’t respond as well as we needed to against elite teams. And that is something we will be tested in very quickly this season.”
Several plays after that the first fight, receiver Gino Crump and Shaquille Richardson got into it, with Crump ending up taking a swing at the cornerback. Fortunately for everyone involved — most of all Crump — he missed.
“It has to happen to get the aggression out, so you can move on to the next play,” Richardson said. “After I had my little scuffle, the next play we shook hands, laughed about it. You just have to let it out.”
He said it
“It just tells me that everyone is playing with passion and intensity. That just means that everyone is really hungry, you know what I mean? This isn’t a boy’s game. This is a man’s game. There might be a couple of fights out there. That’s OK, as long as nobody gets hurt. We’re all family afterwards and we don’t take it back to the locker room. That’s the good thing about it.” — Sophomore running back Daniel Jenkins
Jack Baucus, the projected starting tight end, has been moved to right tackle (you can read my earlier coverage of that at TucsonCitizen.com). Players were unavailable after the morning practice, but a few of us media types caught up to Baucus as the Cats went through various photo stations back at McKale Center later in the morning.
“It was probably the most fun I’ve had since I’ve been here,” Baucus said of playing tackle.
As for the move, he said he talked to Stoops and offensive coordinator Seth Littrell and signed off on the proposal to change positions.
“I said, ‘Let’s go for it,’” Baucus said. “I want to win the Rose Bowl, and if that’s what it takes, let’s do it.”
Baucus said he played on the offensive line until the eighth grade. How soon can he be ready to play at tackle?
“I’d say fairly soon. Having my sort of background at tight end, playing tackle at a kid … I know the offense fairly well and I know where everyone is supposed to be at. I think I’m going to pick it up pretty quickly and be in the rotation pretty soon.”
Baucus is a redshirt sophomore. His brother, redshirt freshman Mickey Baucus, is the projected starting left tackle. The projected starter at right tackle is redshirt freshman Fabbians Ebbele.
He said it, part II
“Our (defensive) ends are coming along. I think we’re going to be able to get some edge pressure. I like our secondary and I like our inside guys. Even with those losses (ACL injuries to safety Adam Hall and linebacker Jake Fischer), we’re a pretty complete defense.” — Stoops
We’ll have plenty more of this as camp goes on, and the team scrimmages (and newcomers are cleared by Stoops to speak to the media) … but for now it appears that freshman running back Ka’Deem Carey is competing for a third-string spot. Stoops said starter Keola Antolin and backup Daniel Jenkins are “light years” ahead of everyone else right now.
“He’s going to compete for that third spot,” Stoops said of Carey, from CDO high school. “We’d like to see him continue to improve. He’s got a lot talent. He’s physically ready. … If he can pick it mentally, I think he’ll have a chance.”
WR Juron Criner is just fine. In Arizona’s two-minute drill at the end of camp, he laid out to make a catch of about 40 yards on a deep throw by Nick Foles. The pass looked overthrown while the ball was in the air, but Criner was able to track it. … If offensive coordinator Seth Littrell decides to dabble with the Wildcat formation this season, look for WR Richard Morrison to be taking the direct snaps. … Morrison and Jonathan McKnight are the prime candidates at punt returner. Special teams coach Jeff Hammerschmidt said a couple of days ago that Criner could be deployed on occasion as a punt returner, and Criner fielded a few kickoffs Saturday, too. But when Stoops was asked after practice if Criner could have a role in the return game, he said, “I doubt it.” He added with a smile, “I hope not,” clearly not wanting to risk injury to the offensive’s most dynamic weapon.