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Arizona Wildcats football: Day 1 at Fort Huachuca

Arizona's Jonathan McKnight will soon be hounding someone other than his teammates. Photo by Chris Morrison-US PRESSWIRE

FORT HUACHUCA — We could provide a transcript of Arizona’s practice Thursday night, but we’d have to bleep most of it out.

The vulgarities were flowing — and some punches were flying again — as the Wildcats went through emotionally-charged (and thoroughly entertaining) drills on the Army post to end their first two-a-day practices.

It’s pretty safe to say: Arizona has never had so many talented receivers on its roster, and that coincides at a time when the secondary has a rare, brash blend of veterans and young, athletic talent — even with safety Adam Hall recovering from an ACL injury and promising redshirt freshman Jourdon Grandon going down earlier this week with torn meniscus in his knee.

And, oh, do both sides like to talk.

At one point Thursday night, quarterback Nick Foles came to the sideline to grab receiver Dan Buckner — the talkiest of the talkers on offense — and try to calm him down after he fumed that he wasn’t being allowed to talk. If that makes sense.

Others let their hands do their talking.

The most notable flurry came between sophomore cornerback Jonathan McKnight — who has a great jab at the line in press coverage — and redshirt freshman receiver Tyler Slavin, who seems to make a couple of spectacular catches in every practice (like his one-handed grab along the sideline Thursday night).

In this case, McKnight jabbed and grabbed, holding on to Slavin’s facemask. Then Slavin went for McKnight’s facemask, and then McKnight went for the helmet slap … and then it was on.

Certainly, there is a fine line there somewhere between the intense competition the coaches want and somebody doing something really stupid and detrimental to the team. The Cats have stayed on the right side of that line so far.

“I think both groups are making each other better,” coach Mike Stoops said, talking about the battles between the receivers and the secondary.

“That’s the strength of our team on both sides of the ball. We’re going to lean on those guys a lot. I think it’s great we have so much competition.”

Thursday night, with the team working out in half pads, the offense ended up with a win.

The defense had forced a fourth-and-10 from the 16 in the two-minute drill to end practice. On the final play, Foles bobbled the snap, recovered, backpedaled a bit, then fired a pass between defensive backs Robert Golden and Trevin Wade that ended up the hands of David Douglas for a touchdown.

Lineup watch

Grandon is expected to be out at least three weeks because of the knee injury. He had been having an impressive camp, making a case to be the starting nickel back.

Stoops said after the night practice that cornerback Shaquille Richardson will move to the nickel back position, with Wade and McKnight at corner.

“That gets our five best guys on the field,” he said.

Arizona also threw true freshman Cortez Johnson into the fire Thursday. He was cleared to participate in practice for the first time, and he had no trouble mixing it up right away and getting in receivers’ faces.

“Cortez gives us more depth at corner,” Stoops said. “We still have good options. That’s what depth gives you.”


Jack Baucus, who was moved from tight end to right tackle last weekend, worked at center Thursday night. Backup center Addison Bachman had suffered a wrist injury that Stoops said he hoped was just a sprain.

“(Baucus) gives us a lot of flexibility. He’s a good athlete. That’s what you want at center. But he’s been playing well at tackle, too. He’s going to find a good home.”

Coming up

Arizona will hold a scrimmage at Fort Huachuca on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. It is open to the public. To enter the post, you must have a valid driver’s license, proof of car insurance and current registration.

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