By Craig Sanders
Arizona Daily Wildcat October 2, 1996
The Arizona Wildcats have gone back to learning the basics during the bye week - like how to hit, for one.
UA head coach Dick Tomey said the team needs toughness and physical play after being run over by Washington 31-17 on Sept. 21. The Wildcats gave up 477 yards of total offense.
"We hit more than we ever have during a bye week," Tomey said. "I just didn't think we were tough and I think when you try harder you get more physical and tougher. So we just went out and smacked each other all week."
Tomey said the commitment will lead to improvements in all areas. The Wildcats' pass rush and run defense have both faltered this season.
"Toughness, discipline, being more physical encompasses everything," Tomey said. "Pass rush, defensive line play, kickoff coverage - if we improve in those areas a lot of other things will improve."
And Tomey seemed more committed than usual to getting his team to take a get-tough mentality.
If injuries occur, he said, "Then too bad. You're not tough enough."
Arizona did use its time to heal a few wounds. UA defensive linemen Joe Salave'a and Steve Tafua are both recovering from injuries, and wide receiver Richard Dice used the bye week to get a little bit of his "pop" back.
"We still don't know about everyone," Tomey said. "Salave'a is going to be OK, I think. Tafua we don't know about."
Tomey said that as of now, senior Gary Taylor is still his starting running back. Taylor has 294 yards rushing on 50 carries for a 5.9-yard average. He has, however, received criticism for his pass blocking.
"Our problem wasn't that he wasn't carrying the ball well, but that he wasn't making plays in other areas," Tomey said.
That may have left the door open for freshman Leon Callen and junior Kevin Schmidtke. Callen, however, missed the last week of practice with a minor injury, delaying his progress. Still, Callen has not slipped from Tomey's mind.
"Well, Gary's first, but I think Leon is going to play more," Tomey said. "At this point he missed all week of practice, but he is deserving (enough) to play more. Kevin will play more as well."
Tomey also said he is looking for someone to step up at fullback. Junior Charles Myles is still listed as the starter, but Kelvin Eafon and Scooter Sprotte may challenge him.
"We are still looking for that person," Tomey said. "We just haven't been consistent all year."
Freshman Dennis Northcutt continued his shuffle this week, moving back to the offensive side of the ball. Northcutt is getting practice at wide receiver after starting the season at tailback and then moving to cornerback.
"Looking at the whole picture, Northcutt probably fits in at wide receiver," Tomey said. "Because of the way Leon developed, I think that keeps him from being a strong consideration at tailback unless we have an injury.
"It makes more sense for Dennis to work out at wide receiver."
The defensive backs may have a long season ahead if Arizona's pass rush doesn't improve. Tomey is committed to a defensive scheme that lets his defensive backs go one-on-one in coverage. He said it's the same scheme that has worked before, but this year t eams are taking advantage of it.
"We had problems in the past that weren't exposed because we had good pass rush," Tomey said. "Now we don't and those problems are going to be exposed."
Tomey said that getting burned by Washington may have been a good experience in the long run. He said his defensive backs should be able to learn from their mistakes and hopefully continue to make plays.
"We play more aggressively back there than anybody in the league," Tomey said. "Nobody plays perfect back there. It's just too hard. The cure-all to that is a good pass rush."