SI.com 2003 College Football Preview




SI.com's College Football Team Previews - from Athlon Sports

  Arizona Wildcats

 
The Lowdown
Coach: John Mackovic (3rd year, 9-14)
2002 record: 4-8
Pac-10 finish: T-9th
2002 offensive stats:
Rush: 43.8 ypg
(10th in Pac-10, 117th in nation)
Pass: 289.8 ypg (5th, 14th)
2002 defensive stats:
Rush: 161.8 ypg (10th, 67th)
Pass: 224.3 ypg (3rd, 68th)
Projected Starters
Offense (5 returning starters in bold)
WR   4   Andrae Thurman   Sr.  
WR  18  Lance Relford  Sr. 
LT  72  Tanner Bell  So. 
LG   75   Reggie Sampay   Sr.  
C   67   Keoki Fraser   Jr.  
RG   66   Kili Lefotu   So.  
RT   68   Brandon Phillips   Sr.  
TE  46  Matt Padron  Fr. 
QB  Nic Costa  So. 
HB  26  Mike Bell  So. 
FB  36  Gilbert Harris  So. 
Defense (4)
DE   92   Carlos Williams   Jr.  
NT  99  Vince Feula  Jr. 
DE  91  Brad Brittain  So. 
OLB  56  Andre Torrey  Jr. 
ILB   42   Joe Siofele   Sr.  
ILB  44  Patrick Howard  Jr. 
OLB  83  Copeland Bryan  So. 
CB  13  Luis Nunez  Jr. 
CB  Jason Martin  So. 
SS   33   Clay Hardt   Sr.  
FS   6   Darrell Brooks   So.  
Special Teams
28  Bobby Gill  Jr. 
43  Danny Baugher  So. 
KR  Andrae Thurman  Sr. 
PR  Andrae Thurman  Sr. 
2003 Schedule
Aug. 30  UTEP 
Sept. 6  LSU 
Sept. 13  Oregon 
Sept. 20  at Purdue 
Sept. 27  TCU 
Oct. 4  at Washington State 
Oct. 11  UCLA 
Oct. 25  at California 
Nov. 1  at Oregon State 
Nov. 8  Washington 
Nov. 15  USC 
Nov. 28  at Arizona State 
In the four exasperating years since Arizona opened as a consensus top-10 team, the Wildcats have struggled through a 20-26 record and failed to qualify for a bowl game.

Worse, they've gone 2-14 in Pac-10 home games, and many of the defeats have been embarrassing blowouts with scores like 63-28, 50-22, 33-9, 48-21, 37-7.

"We've recruited well, especially in view of those who tried to make it more difficult for us," third-year coach John Mackovic said. "We're bigger and stronger than we've been. We've established a good foundation. I think our fans are going to like this group."

Mackovic, who somehow survived a turbulent season of player mutiny and mounting losses, stops short of saying the Wildcats are rebuilding. After four difficult seasons, no one in Tucson wants to hear that.

OFFENSIVE KEYS:

One of the youngest offensive teams in UA history is at its youngest at quarterback. The choice is between 5-foot-11 sophomore Nic Costa, possibly the team's fastest runner, and 6-6 freshman Ryan O'Hara. Costa makes plays with his speed, while O'Hara has superb arm strength. Ideally, Arizona would like a mix of the two and probably will use both, depending on the situation. "We won't know who our No. 1 guy is until September, if then," Mackovic said. "It might be an ongoing thing."

The running back situation is unclear. Senior Clarence Farmer's sophomore breakout year became a bust in 2002. After leading the Pac-10 with 1,229 rushing yards, Farmer suffered a disabling knee injury early in his junior year and later was suspended for insubordination. He's been reinstated and is progressing in his rehabilition. but the starting job still belongs to sophomore Mike Bell, who played extensively in his first college season.

The top receiver is senior Andrae Thurman, who had 61 catches a year ago. He always has been a complementary player. Sophomore Biren Ealy is thought to be Arizona's future receiving star.

On the line, eight players have started. Senior Reggie Sampay, with 24 career starts, can play guard or center; he and junior center Keoki Fraser, a two-year starter, join senior tackle Brandon Phillips as team leaders. Four freshmen and sophomores will fill out the other spots.

DEFENSIVE KEYS:

In an attempt to get back to bowl-level football, Mackovic has redone his defense. Gone is the flex scheme of the 1990s Desert Swarm defense and its coordinator, Larry Mac Duff. In is Mike Hankwitz, formerly the defensive coordinator at Texas A&M and Colorado.

One of Hankwitz's first changes was to put sophomore ends Marcus Smith and Copeland Bryan into edge-rushing assignments as linebackers. Both players appeared to thrive in the spring. The inside linebacker of note is senior Joe Siofele, who is surrounded by untested players. The defensive line is young and thin. The secondary includes 2001 all-conference cornerback Michael Jolivette, who is coming back from knee surgery. Sophomore Darrell Brooks, who can play corner or safety, has star potential.

SPECIAL TEAMS:

Arizona has punted poorly for the past two seasons and has two kickers, sophomore Danny Baugher and senior James Molina, back for more. Neither has been consistent. The kickoffs, handled by sophomore Ryan Slack last year, were inadequate. Bobby Gill is the apparent place-kicker. He, too, has been inconsistent.

FINAL ANALYSIS:

UA returns 12 starters from a ninth-place team, which isn't entirely good news. Not a single 2002 All-Pac-10 player, or second-team player, is on Arizona's roster. A winning season might be too much to expect. This team is built for 2004 and thereafter.

Mackovic's job security is likely to be the storyline for the season. He has two years remaining and a buyout of $400,000 per year. Declining attendance totals at Arizona might be as important to Mackovic as anything else as he tries to avoid a third consecutive losing year, something that hasn't happened at Arizona since 1976-78.

Click here for complete index of 2003 team previews

To purchase the 2003 College Football Preview from Athlon Sports, click here.

 


 
CNNSI