Thank goodness for the Davis Center.
The Arizona Wildcats’ Saturday morning scrimmage at Arizona Stadium got interrupted by lightning, causing players, coaches and staffers to march across the street to new their new indoor facility where they completed fall camp.
“It was awesome,” said coach Kevin Sumlin. “Today, the sun was out when we started as usual. That’s why we’re scrimmaging at 10 now because we got a better chance because of the weather. I’ve become a weatherman here...trying to get as much information as I can. But 10 o’clock, it’s sunshine and then 11:30, we got some lightning close and our rule is if it’s within 10 miles, we gotta go.”
The Wildcats ran 84 plays (100 if you include special teams), with a special emphasis on red-zone offense and four-minute offense, among other scenarios.
“It was tight zone from the eight and then when we had two or three shots of red zone and we had some four-minute offense, and then we went a couple different sets to new situations. Need a touchdown. Need a field goal,” Sumlin said. “So we got a lot of situational football work in today and live tackling and box running. It was great experience for some of our younger players and great experience for substitution work, headsets, all that kind of stuff for communication.”
Sumlin said the Wildcats will recover Sunday and Monday before going through a mock game week, meaning practicing in pads on Tuesday and Wednesday while introducing some game-planning and opponent evaluation.
“We practice a game week. We just don’t spring it on them,” said Sumlin, whose team opens at Hawaii on Aug. 24. “Game week is a little bit different... so guys are used to ‘hey, here’’s the opponent, here’s how we’re going to introduce the opponent, here’s what the film study of the opponent looks like. Because you have some young guys who (haven’t done that).”
Here are some of other topics Sumlin brushed on after Saturday’s scrimmage.
On improving red-zone offense: “We had three different situations, 1s and 2s, so we six different opportunities down there today, plus the tight zone, so we’re working at it. It’s been an emphasis. I said it at the beginning of the year that we led the league in attempted field goals. So obviously the games that we lost that were close games, we’d rather have touchdowns and that’s something that we’re aware of and stuff that we’ve dedicated lot of time to here during camp.”
On having a lot of running back depth: “I think we have depth because we practice depth. We know what J.J. (Taylor) can do. I think from our standpoint we know a lot about (Gary) Brightwell and we know quite a bit about Bam (Smith) too because when he’s been in games he’s been really effective. We’re trying to figure out what (Michael) Wiley (can do)... and he’s had some big plays in every live situation. So he is proving to us that he deserves a chance to play at least special teams and and get on the plane and go to Hawaii and see where he is. And as I told J.J., and we’ve told all these guys, the healthiest you is the best you. And if we got guys that can add to the depth and can be fresh (we’ll use them). Because when running backs get tired, bad things happen. They get hurt or fumble the ball or go the wrong way and miss a cut.”
On Khalil Tate’s mobility compared to last season: “It’s night and day. He took off a couple times today, and made some first downs in particular in the two-minute situation when they were dropping a bunch of folks. So yeah, he looks comfortable, he looks healthy.”
On how Tate has improved on the field: “I think he’s communicating even more. I think one thing that’s helped him, which has kind of worked out that way is because J.J. is not out there as much during camp, is in a lot of the protection things when you have Wiley out there and these young guys, he’s going to have to communicate and make sure that these young backs know what’s going on. We’ve got a couple new offensive linemen in there, really three, if you add (Robert) Congel, so his communication with protections and things that are going on like that improved because of that.”
On the competition at right tackle and left guard: “What we did was we tried a bunch of different guys just like last year. You’re looking for a combination and you’re also looking for a rotation? Would you like to have 10 guys? Yes. But we don’t have that right now. Right now, Congel gives us the opportunity because he’s a backup center. He’s also a good guard, too. So he’s pushing Josh Donovan a little bit. I think Donovan (Laie), and Josh (McCauley) have really solidified themselves at their position, left tackle and center, so the question is at right tackle and left guard. And so we just want to get the right people in those places and they’re close right now, which doesn’t mean necessarily mean it’s bad, it just means that they’re good players that are battling and it also means that Congel, if he’s not starting, gives us a backup at guard and center. So we feel a lot better right now than we did maybe a week and a half ago.”
On the development of junior college defensive tackles Trevon Mason and Myles Tapusoa: “I’ll be interested to see how many snaps they played today. But it was a substantial amount. It was part of the goal today because with Trevon, we kinda just moved him in and took it easy with him early because he just got here, and then kind of increased his reps every practice. And it’s a big difference in there right now with 320 (pounds) and 310 (pounds) in there. They really added some things in there as far as size and being able to hold a point, so it’s been good. They’ve been working really hard and I think (strength) coach (Brian) Johnson has done a nice job.”
On defensive tackle Mykee Irving: “He’s been good. He’s been back and forth (between offensive and defensive line). He’s probably lost 40 pounds, which has been good for him. He’s moving well on defense and adding great depth to that defensive line because now he’s down to a weight where he can stay out there and play a little bit.”
On the best times to go for a two-point conversion: “Sometimes it depends on a feel for the game. I’m not a first half guy most of the time. I think if you let things play out, you’d like to wait till the fourth quarter to really start thinking about going for two. It depends on where you are on that number. We got off of it early (against Arizona State) and it’s probably something that I probably should have just waited till fourth quarter as I usually do.”