The Arizona Wildcats media day was on Sunday, and here are some of the story lines I was able to come across during it.
We've been talking a lot about tight ends this offseason, and so I asked Josh Kern and Trevor Wood about what their role would be, since tight ends haven't been used much during Rich Rodriguez' tenure at Arizona so far.
"Hopefully an increased role," Kern said. "It’s been our fault that we weren’t ready to go, our weight wasn’t ready, we weren’t mentally ready to go with some of the plays, so hopefully we can continue to improve and be in the offense this year."
Trevor Wood believes that the tight ends will give Arizona a "different attack".
"We’ve proven that we can go without a tight end, and now using a tight end will definitely add another step up in our offense and cause defenses to look at us differently and play us differently," he said.
The tight ends may be more than just situational players.
"They’re not just looking to use in certain situations, they’re just looking to use overall and incorporating us into the offense so a defense can’t say ‘oh it’s the redzone, they’re gonna put a tight end in'. They’re gonna have to worry about us all the time," Wood explained.
Wood also said that each of the tight ends can bring something unique to the table.
"Josh [Kern] is the most athletic tight end out of all out us. He’s going to help out in the pass game. I’m a little bit of a bigger body, so I’m going to help out in blocking, and I also feel that I can run routes. Darrell [Cloy] is a big body and one of our better blockers, and Matt [Morin] is quick and he’s the fastest of the tight ends."
It will definitely be interesting to see how and when the tight ends are used, and which ones are used. Kern is certainly the top tight end as of now, but the other spots are still in the air. Trevor Wood was supposed to be the other main tight end, but he's dealing with an injury that could keep him out for much of the season.
The possibility of using tight ends in the offense sounds nice, but if Saturday's scrimmage was any indication of what type of role the tight ends will have in the offense, it's going to be a very small one. Only one catch was made by a tight end (Josh Kern) in nearly 100 plays.
DaVonte' Neal's transition to cornerback
Everything has been positive regarding Neal's switch to corner so far.
"It’s going pretty good. I like it. I’m having a lot of fun on defense, and my coach and teammates are making it a lot of fun and an easy transition," Neal said.
"If I didn’t know he played receiver first, I’d be like 'oh man, this guy’s a great corner'," freshman Sammy Morrison said. "Obviously playing receiver and then going to corner, you know what the receiver wants to do to corners, you know how the receiver wants to attack him, and just having that background has helped him a lot. He’s a really good corner, great instincts, great technique, and so he’s definitely going to have a great season this year."
"It looks like he’s always played DB. He’s done a great job this camp, and I can’t wait to see him play," freshman Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles added.
Neal said the toughest part about switching from wide receiver to corner is that you have to learn to move backwards all the time instead of forwards. Obviously he still feels there's room for improvement.
"I can still work on my technique, I can still work on my footwork, and I can still work on my knowledge of the game," he said.
Neal was a little noncommittal on what type of role he'd have, but he played with both the first and second string defense in the scrimmage on Saturday morning. So it seems as though he'll be a major contributor at cornerback from day one.
Freshmen DB's Sammy Morrison and Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles have clicked both on and off the field
The freshmen defensive backs became very good friends shortly after arriving on campus.
"One of my best friends is Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles," Morrison said.
"As soon as me and Sammy got here, we clicked," Flannigan-Fowles mentioned.
The most intriguing thing I learned is that they would go to Arizona Stadium at 11 at night to work on footwork, and to "envision themselves making plays" on the field. It's nice to see young players with that type of work ethic.
"It’s just been cool seeing me and him grow together as friends and then grow together as players. He’s been running with the 'twos', and the 'ones' sometimes as well, so it’s been cool seeing me and him just make some noise as young as we are," Morrison said.
Their work ethics have impressed fellow defensive backs DaVonte' Neal and Cam Denson too.
"They go out there and practice every day. They want to get better. They want to become students of the game," Denson said. "Sammy Morrison goes out there and practices really hard every day. And Demetrius, I’ve known him since we were kids, and it’s all worthy praise."
"Sammy has caught my eye because he’s going with the 'ones'," Neal said.
It wouldn't be too surprising to see both Morrison and Flannigan-Fowles have an instant impact in the secondary this season, despite being freshmen. Flannigan-Fowles may be Jamar Allah's backup at safety, and Morrison believes he's ready for the challenge.
"I definitely think I’ve been learning a lot this fall camp from a lot of the older guys, and just the knowledge and wisdom they’ve given me, I think I can come in and use that and help out the defense a lot," Morrison said.
Aside from football, Morrison and Flannigan-Fowles also have something else in common: their love of Cheba Hut sandwiches. Flannigan-Fowles said he and Morrison "always go to Cheba Hut." Morrison mentioned that over the summer he spent over $400 on food there.
That's a lot of sandwiches.
Who is the toughest receiver to cover?
"I think it’s Samajie, and then Cayleb. I think Samajie is one of the hardest receivers to cover," Cam Denson opined. "He’s quick, fast, and very shifty."
Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles said that freshman Shun Brown is tough to cover for similar reasons. "He’s shifty. I always like good competition, so I always go against Shun."
Either way, going up against the type of receivers that Arizona has will only benefit the secondary in the long-run.
"It helps us a lot. We go up against one of the best receiving corps in the country. Cayleb Jones, Samajie, Nate [Phillips], Trey [Griffey], and all those other guys help us DB’s that much more. Since we get to practice against them we have no choice but to get better everyday," Cam Denson said.
"I personally believe that we have one of the best receiving corps in the Pac-12, if not the nation, so just going against these guys, doing one-on-ones, going against them in 7-on-7, it definitely gives me a look at what the rest of the nation has to offer," Morrison adds.