UA lineman earns academic honor

By Craig Sanders
Arizona Daily Wildcat
October 30, 1996

Arizona Daily Wildcat

UA cornerback Chris McAlister (11) has made seven interceptions this season, tops in the Pacific 10 Conference and second in the nation.


UA offensive lineman Wayne Wyatt is proving that he can be a center of stability both on and off the field.

Wyatt, Arizona's starting center, was selected as one of 16 National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame National Scholar-Athletes for his performance on the field and in the classroom.

The senior will receive an $18,000 graduate scholarship and will pursue a degree in dentistry. Wyatt has started all seven games for Arizona this season and maintains a 3.941 GPA and will graduate with a bachelor's degree in philosophy.

"He is quite an accomplishment in this day and time," UA head coach Dick Tomey said.

Tomey said freshman quarterback Keith Smith probably had his most complete game of the season against Oregon State last Saturday.

"He clearly played his best game," Tomey said. "He (called audibles) against the blitzes, ran the option flawlessly. He had a great game."

Smith ran for only 19 yards against OSU but completed 9-of-11 passing attempts for 151 yards and a touchdown. Tomey said that with a mobile quarterback like Smith, the problems for a defense may occur when Smith runs around the pocket and creates time for his receivers to get open. Against Oregon State he did just that, hitting receiver Rodney Williams on a 55-yard touchdown pass.

"That was another step forward in his maturity," Tomey said. "I didn't know if he was going to get that far this year."

UA cornerback Chris McAlister continues to intercept passes. McAlister got another against Oregon State and now has a conference-leading five this season. Not only does he lead the Pacific 10 Conference, but he also is second in the nation.

"We laugh and joke with each other about who is tied with who and who doesn't have any," UA linebacker Chester Burnett said. "But Chris is on a whole different level. He is averaging one a game. No one is going to catch him. I would like to, but he is second in the nation."

Burnett has two interceptions this season, as does safety David Fipp and backup cornerback/wide receiver Dennis Northcutt. The team has 12 interceptions this season, compared to only six all of last season.

"I don't really know what it is," McAlister said. "Sometimes it is a matter of being in the right place at the right time. Sometimes it is a matter of reading a play."

Burnett hasn't been too shabby himself. Not only is he getting interceptions, but he also has become a fixture in the middle of the defense. Burnett has 42 tackles in the past three games and leads the team with 70 tackles.

Burnett said his quickness is one of the keys to his success.

"I'm glad my speed is finally showing," Burnett said. "If you can't get there, how can you be effective?"

Tomey said he is not overly concerned that kicker Matt Peyton has been kicking the ball out of bounds on kickoffs this season. He says it is primarily a matter of trying to be too precise with location.

"We are awful," Tomey said. "I am confident that we will get it solved. We just need to kick them down and cover it."

UA senior receiver Richard Dice is scheduled to undergo surgery on his knee tomorrow. He injured his knee in Arizona's 14-7 loss to Southern Cal on Oct. 12 and is expected to be out the remainder of the season.

"He is not crazy about having surgery on Halloween," Tomey said.