Arizona will have a couple of new snappers this season.
Chase Gorham, who handled the long-snapping last year as a true freshman for the Wildcats, left the team because of personal reasons, coach Mike Stoops said after Monday morning’s practice. Stoops said he was unsure if Gorham would return at some point.
Gorham, from Scottsdale Chaparral High School, was the first player to commit to Arizona in the Class of 2010. He could take his redshirt this season and return to active duty in 2012.
In the meantime, his departure leaves Arizona with a couple of guys who have been in the program for a while and who, if they do their jobs well, you’ll never hear from again.
Brian Chacon, a junior backup center, will snap for field goals and extra points. With or without Gorham, Chacon figured to take over those duties anyway.
“In the spring, he was ahead of Chase,” said special teams coach Jeff Hammerschmidt.
“The reason is that is that he’s a little bit bigger in there, and we were having some trouble with that middle penetration, which we all saw,” Hammerschmidt added, referencing the two blocked extra points against ASU.
“Brian is a great kid, a great student. Just one of those guys who has worked hard at it. I told him after the season there was going to be an opportunity, and he took it.”
Chacon is listed at 270 pounds. Gorham was listed at 225.
As for long-snapping for punts, the leader is junior David Highberger.
“He’s been on the team for two years,” Hammerschmidt said. “He’s done a good job long-snapping. He’s still not perfect, but we’re getting there.”
With a nod to a potentially high-powered offense, Hammerschmidt added with a smile: “We figure we just have to punt maybe once a game anyway.”
Hammerschmidt said that the coaching staff was bringing in another long-snapper to camp to compete for playing time.
He said it
“I think our offense is starting to get caught up a little bit. I think we’re starting to put some plays together and find a little bit of rhythm in our offense. The first five days have gone pretty smooth.” — Stoops
Junior college transfer David Lopez, who joined the team in the summer after he originally planned to go to Portland State, continues to be one of the biggest surprises of camp.
“I love his intensity and I think he has good instincts,” defensive coordinator Tim Kish said. “And he has given us the ability to move the pieces of the puzzle around.”
Lopez (6-3, 230) is solidly built and physical. When the Wildcats use their base 4-3 defense, Lopez can handle the middle, with senior Derek Earls moving to strong-side linebacker, where Arizona needs to replace Jake Fischer (ACL).
Kish says Lopez still faces a steep learning curve, given that he wasn’t here for the spring, but the transfer has given the linebacker corps needed versatility and depth. The position took four hits in the spring — two backups transferred, another backup had academic problems, and Fischer suffered his knee injury.
Kish said he looked at a handful of transfer linebackers after spring practice and decided only one was good enough for a scholarship offer — Lopez.
“We got the one we wanted,” Kish said. “We’ve been very, very lucky.”
He said it, part II
“Pretty much, I like out competition across the board. The players have been great and have really practiced hard. It hasn’t been perfect, but it’s the hardest five days we’ve gone as a team, and that speaks positive about these guys.” — Stoops
Monday was the team’s first practice in full pads and, as they did on Saturday, the 11-on-11 drills got a bit chippy. There was some pushing and shoving and plenty of yapping as the team was doing its red-zone offense. As on Saturday, safety Marquis Flowers was in the middle of it. … Redshirt freshman receiver Tyler Slavin had a big day, catching two passes of 50-plus yards, one from Matt Scott, the other from Nick Foles. Arizona’s young outside receiving corps, which includes redshirt freshman Austin Hill and true freshman Patrick Onwuasor, has a bright future. … Redshirt freshman defensive back Jourdon Grandon intercepted a pass to end practice. Grandon can be used all over the secondary and is giving the team a boost with quality depth.