I caught up after Wednesday’s practice with former Arizona Wildcat standout John Fina, who will be the analyst on Saturday’s telecast of UA’s season-opener against Northern Arizona.
Fina, a left tackle, was a 1991 first-round draft pick and played in 10 seasons with the Buffalo Bills before finishing up with one year with the Cardinals.
I started our conversation by asking him about the Wildcats’ all-new offensive line, especially the redshirt freshmen at tackles — Fabbians Ebbele on the right side and Mickey Baucus on the left.
Q: When you’re looking at a young tackle, what do you want to see?
FINA: “If I’m their coach, if I’m Robert Anae, I want to see them working their technique when things are difficult. I want to see a reflection of the things I am coaching, the solid technical movements that when a game is tight in the fourth quarter will enhance their play. Nothing is worse than guys who abandon technique. That’s what I would want. … I had one coach tell me, ‘I don’t care how strong you are, if you’re technique is gone in the fourth quarter, you’re done.’”
Q: Other than what you mentioned, what are the pitfalls for a young offensive tackle in his first game?
FINA: “Well, the butterflies are No. 1. And then the first time you get beat, you question your technique because you’re frustrated that you got beat. Then, your first mental mistake, you’re going to question your resolve. Through a combination of those three things, you get a tendency to start doubting yourself before there is any real reason to, and you can’t let the doubt creep in. Instead of panicking and freaking out, you have to come back to your basic skill set — make sure your kick-step is appropriate, have your eyes in the right place. Can you carry those fundamentals through the game regardless of the ebb and flow?”
Q: What are your thoughts on UA’s tackles after seeing them in practices and scrimmages?
FINA: “There is clearly potential. They’re excited, they’re young. You like to have that. And they’re coached well. It’s obvious. You come out here and you see the things they are doing, the drills they are doing, and you say, ‘There is no reason these guys can’t go out on the field and play the way they’re coached and have success.’ I’ve been on the other side of the coin, where I’ve have such poor coaching that I would walk down to the field and say, ‘I don’t know if we can win a game.’ … I’ve sat in the locker room and thought, ‘We have a 1 percent chance. Maybe.’ It was that bad.”
Q: It looks like you had an opportunity to speak to the offensive line after practice.
FINA: “Yeah, I told them that obviously everybody is stacking up against you guys as a group. So all that means is there is opportunity. Don’t point fingers. Come together. I told them, you guys could be responsible for something amazing, arguably miraculous.”
Q: Other than whatever happens on the offensive line, what would be most encouraging for you to see Saturday night?
FINA: “I want to see the secondary play with great confidence. I don’t mean taking chances, I just mean great coverage play after play. I want to see an active defensive line, and I want to see Keola Antolin get 25 touches in this game. We know Nick (Foles) can throw the ball, and the receivers are the envy of the entire Division I, so there’s no question (about the passing game). I don’t say they need a great running game because this isn’t I-formation and they’re not running a pro set, but they need a smart running game. Take what they give you. You need only 3 1/2 to 4 to 5 yards per run. That’s what most people forget about football.”
Saturday’s game will be shown live starting at 7 p.m. on Fox Sports Arizona and KWBA-58. KGUN-9 will have a replay at 10:35 p.m. Dave Sitton will handle the play-by-play.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the 23rd installment of our 24 Hours of Arizona Football Blogging — one post at the top of every hour. Keep checking back at TucsonCitizen.com through Friday at 11 a.m. or follow the entire series with the “24 hours of blogging” tag.