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Arizona football training camp report: Day 11

arizona-wildcats-football-practice-training-camp-report-jayden-delaura-jimmie-dougherty-will-plummer Arizona Athletics

Arizona was back in action Tuesday morning following a day off, yet a fair number of players were not in action for the full-pad practice.

The most notable of those not participating in the workout was wide receiver Jacob Cowing, who missed Sunday’s practice and on Tuesday was in a jersey and shorts with a bucket hat instead of a helmet. Quarterback Jayden de Laura said Cowing was “kind of resting,” which was likely the case with some of the others not practicing as training camp enters its third week.

Also not dressed were receiver AJ Jones, linebacker Jeremy Mercier and cornerback Treydan Stukes, while among those not at practice were running back Jalen John, offensive lineman Anthony Patt, defensive lineman Tia Savea and defensive back Isaiah Rutherford.

Freshman linebacker Jacob Manu, who was not at Saturday’s scrimmage, was back in uniform and was a full participant.

Breaking down what ‘clicked’ for de Laura

Tuesday was another strong practice for de Laura, the latest in a string of good ones dating back to Friday in which he’s made far fewer mistakes than during the first handful of workouts. UA coach Jedd Fisch said after the scrimmage, in which de Laura was 10 of 15 for 93 yards and a touchdown, that something “clicked” for his starting QB during a walkthrough on Thursday.

“All of a sudden it just made sense to him,” quarterbacks coach Jimmie Dougherty said. “You could tell a difference in his demeanor, in the bounce in his step, you could see it that night at that walkthrough.”

De Laura said his struggles early in camp were mostly a product of still getting used to Arizona’s offense, which is vastly different from what he ran for two seasons at Washington State or that he played in high school in Hawaii.

“I just feel like (I) just needed a couple of days for me and other guys in the offense to just kind of get on the same page,” he said. “It was just kind of a small things, like little reads. So I mean, it was just getting back into practice mode. Kind of getting my game flow and everything. And I felt like the walkthrough was kind of that day, the practices after were just, we got better day by day, day by day.”

Will Plummer update

Plummer underwent shoulder surgery shortly after the Spring Game in April to repair injuries that built up during the 2021 season. At the time the expectation was that he’d be out “several months,” knocking him out of the running to be the starter or even the backup at the start of the 2022 campaign.

Yet Sunday night he was throwing at practice, albeit on mostly short passes and without any defenses coming at him. Is he ahead of schedule in his recovery, or just trying to speed up the process?

“As you guys know Will, he’s trying to push the envelope a little bit,” Dougherty said. “We got to kind of slow him down sometimes. He’s really tough number one, and he’s chomping at the bit to get out there and he wants to throw 40-yard passes. It’s just like, okay, we got to take our time and just listen to the trainers. He’s coming back pretty fast right now. I’ve noticed he’s anxious to get throwing, and as you can see, he’s starting to throw some balls and get some stationary throws and things like that, but we’re being patient with him right now. Just working through it.”

Walk-on receiver turning heads

Arizona’s wide receiver room went through a major overhaul in the offseason, with Dorian Singer and Anthony Simpson the only fully healthy contributors back from a year ago. Also back is Jamarye Joiner, who missed spring practice following a third foot surgery, but how involved he’s expected to be in the passing game is still uncertain.

The additions of freshmen Tetairoa McMillan, Kevin Green Jr. and Jones as well as veteran Cowing from the transfer portal have vastly upgraded the Wildcats’ weapons outside. But they also added six walk-on receivers, including one who they managed to steal away from ASU.

Rex Haynes, a 6-foot-4 freshman from San Diego, was offered by the Sun Devils and is an ASU legacy, as his father Mike Haynes played defensive back there before embarking on a Hall of Fame career in the NFL.

On Tuesday he made several eye-popping catches, something de Laura says has become the norm.

“Who surprised me today, honestly he has surprised me all camp, is Rex,” de Laura said. “Just the plays he’s been making.”

Other notes

  • * We got the first glimpse of who Arizona might be using for its “wall” of personal protectors on punt: offensive lineman Josh Donovan and defensive linemen JB Brown and Paris Shand were lined up between the long snapper and punter Kyle Ostendorp, giving him an extra layer of protection from the rush.

Special teams coordinator Jordan Paopao is going with a 3-man wall, like almost every other team in the country, compared to the 2-man unit that Keith Dudzinski went with last season (and which may have contributed to three punts getting blocked).

  • * Early red zone work, which focused on the run game, included a two-tight end set that also had freshman running back Jonah Coleman as the lead blocker for Michael Wiley. Coleman scored once on a fullback dive from inside the 10-yard line.
  • * Running back DJ Williams, a transfer from Florida State who has quickly climbed up the depth chart, left practice early with a trainer after getting taken down hard on a play.