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Arizona Wildcats football: Notes and observations from the first practice

The Pac-12 Networks announced last week that it will produce an all-access show called “The Drive,” similar to what HBO does with its “Hard Knocks” series showing an NFL team in training camp. The reality show will cover Arizona State and Cal from camp to the end of the regular season in 14 episodes.

Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne, who attended most of the Wildcats’ first practice Saturday night, said the Pac-12 approached certain schools to gauge interest in participating. The Wildcats were not asked, he said, adding “We would have been happy to do it.”

Maybe next year.

–The coaching staff mixed-and-matched personnel on defense in drills, but, for what it’s worth, the starting three-man front in the base defense consisted of Reggie Gilbert on the left, Tevin Hood at the nose and Sione Tuihalamaka on the right. In more of a pass-rushing look, the Cats went with Kirifi Taula on the left, Tuihalamaka inside and Gilbert on the right.

Redshirt freshman end Kyle Kelley is going to be one to watch as the Cats search for someone who can pressure the quarterback. He looks good at 6-2, 250, up 20 pounds from last season.

–Sophomore defensive lineman Dan Pettinato, recovering from a knee injury, might be able to return in a few weeks, Rodriguez said.

–Overheard early in practice from a sideline observer: “I was wondering who that fast guy wearing No. 19 was. Then I realized it was Davonte’ Neal.” No announcement yet whether the Notre Dame transfer slot receiver will be eligible this season, pending an appeal to waive the requirement he sit out a year, although Rodriguez has said he’s not optimistic.

–Senior Terrence Miller, slated at the end of spring to fill a role as a big slot receiver, worked as an outside receiver Saturday night. UA has lost its top three returning outside receivers, at least for the moment. Austin Hill suffered a torn ACL late in spring ball; Tyler Slavin was dismissed from the team this summer; David Richards is recovering from a foot injury.

–Freshman linebacker Derrick Turituri sure passes the eye test. He’s listed at 6-1 and 250 pounds, with a thick upper body, the kind of physical profile the Cats lack at the position. Scooby Wright and DeAndre’ Miller also look physically impressive, as that position is much better-stocked this season.

–Hood, a senior in his second year in the program, and redshirt sophomore linebacker Sir Thomas Jackson are each listed on the new roster released Saturday as being scholarship players. They arrived at Arizona as walk-ons.

–Texas transfer quarterback Connor Brewer, who is not eligible this season, is wearing No. 11.

Vaughn Fontana, a freshman walk-on from Cienega High, was initially listed as a defensive lineman but will work with the offensive linemen for now. He tweeted this after the first practice:

–Arizona added two more walk-ons right before the beginning of fall camp, both of whom played high school ball in San Diego. They are offensive lineman Austin Hyatt from St. Augustine High and Donte’ Cretain from Horizon Christian Academy. Cretain, a 5-6, 150-pound receiver, lists his hometown as Opelousas, La.

Here is a high school highlight video for Cretain:

–Arizona has further branded Kindall/Sancet Stadium, the former home of the UA baseball team, as a football practice field. The old green “batter’s eye” in centerfield is now a sharp-looking mural of football history looming over the facility.

Junior running back Ka’Deem Carey earned his way on there by being a consensus All-American and the nation’s leading rusher last season, but it’s still strange to see a current player on there. (Carey was not made available to the media Saturday night, by the way.)

Here is what greets the team as it enters Kindall/Sancet from the area that used to be home plate:

Photo via Twitter @TracyGOAZCATS

Photo via Twitter @TracyGOAZCATS

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