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Reactions vary among players

MONTINE RUMMEL/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Former Arizona head coach Mackovic instructs freshman quarterback Kris Heavner during a break in the action in Sunday's game against TCU.
By Shane Bacon
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday September 30, 2003

Farmer leads attempt to reunite teammates

The Wildcat football program seems divided about Sunday's firing of head coach John Mackovic, but Clarence Farmer decided that instead of taking sides, he'd take control.

The senior running back ¸ who regularly feuded with Mackovic ¸ was the first to stand up on Sunday after the hour-long meeting with athletic Director Jim Livengood. Farmer delivered a motivational speech that seems to have sparked something in the Wildcats.

"Right after the meeting on Sunday, we stayed behind and got a chance to really just talk as a team," linebacker Akin Akinniyi said. "Clarence stood up and said, ╬Hey guys, crazy stuff is happening, but what I want to do is get to know all of y'all.'"

The leadership shown by the most recognizable player on the team is something that caught on and even spurred an all-team barbecue last night, held at linebacker Kirk Johnson's house.

"We're planning on getting together and eating and chatting," Akinniyi said.

The newly found camaraderie still doesn't soothe the fact that some players are disappointed Mackovic was let go.

"It's been a real hectic last 24 hours," tight end Matt Padron said. "I'm very disappointed this happened."

The frustrated thoughts that most of the players have about the situation are countered by the understanding that it was time for something to change.

"We had no control over this," freshman quarterback Kris Heavner said. "It (wasn't) in our hands, (but) you had a feeling it was going to come."

The players have also come to the realization that even with all the hype, they still have a game to play this weekend. And with their performance against Texas Christian and their recent motivation by their senior running back, things are finally looking up for the 1-4 Arizona squad.

"I'm not pleased (that Mackovic is gone); I'm just actually shocked," outside-linebacker Andre Torrey said. "He was a nice guy and good coach, (but) we've had struggles since he's been here."

Senior free-safety Clay Hardt said that he believes the closeness he felt with his teammates a few years ago was something missing in the recent Wildcat teams.

He hopes that it is something they can find and build on in the recent weeks. "When I got here, the football team worked together," Hardt said. "It's been more of a job (this year), where in the past, you'd come to practice and get excited."

The only change on the field for the Wildcats will be who calls the plays on offense.

Interim head coach Mike Hankwitz said he still plans to run the defense, while offensive coordinator Mike Deal will most likely call the shots for the Wildcat offense.

"As a defensive player, I deal with (Coach) Hankwitz a lot," Torrey said. "I'd only see Mackovic once in a while, (so) it's really going to be the same for me."

And the changes to the game plan?

"We're not changing too much," Padron said. "(Hankwitz) is a really good friend of Coach Mackovic's, and a lot of that stuff we're still going to do. So don't think you're going to see a lot of different stuff."

The conflicting thoughts in the locker room can only be relived on Saturday when the team takes the field against Washington State.

This Saturday marks the start of a new Wildcat season, and the players know that when kick-off rolls around, the last thing on their mind is the guy under the headset.

Like Torrey said, "Coach or no coach, we still want to play good."

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