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Football: Ealy emerging as wildcats' go-to guy

DAVID HARDEN/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Sophomore wideout Biren Ealy stiffarms an Oregon defender earlier this season. Ealy leads the UA with 29 catches for 395 yards on the season.
By Charles Renning
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday October 22, 2003

At this time last year, UA sophomore wide receiver Biren Ealy had one catch for 28 yards. Ealy was a rarely used freshman who was learning the ropes of Division I football.

What a difference a year makes.

"(Last year) he felt like there was tremendous pressure on him," receivers coach Mose Rison said. "But the experience he's had this year as a sophomore has been a great one, and he has improved tremendously as a football player."

This season, Ealy has transformed into the Wildcats' go-to receiver.

"The older you get, you get more confidence and you start to see different things that you didn't pick up (before)," Ealy said.

In Arizona's first seven games, Ealy leads the team with 29 catches for 395 yards and three touchdowns. No other Wildcat has more than 16 receptions.

"He is really a special football player," Rison said.

"He has continued to improve," interim head coach Mike Hankwitz said. "He is learning the offense and running better routes."

Last season, Ealy struggled while trying to make the jump from catching passes for Houston's Cypress Falls High School to playing major college football in the Pacific 10 Conference. This year, however, Hankwitz said Ealy is taking full advantage of his chance at seeing more playing time.

"He is working harder in practice and is having more fun," Hankwitz said. "He's doing what it takes to be successful."

Two weeks ago, Ealy had his most productive game of his short collegiate career. He grabbed five balls for 100 yards and a score in the Wildcats' 24-21 loss to UCLA.

Ealy is averaging over four catches a game for more than 50 yards a contest.

"He has really improved tremendously since I started coaching him in early August up until this point," Rison said. "He has made tremendous progress."

Rison described Ealy as a big, quick receiver that has many of the attributes that any coach would look for in a pass catcher.

At 6-foot-2, Ealy is one of the larger Wildcat receivers and has arguably the best moves of any of Arizona's wideouts.

"He's a big-time playmaker," Rison said. "The thing that I love about Biren is he has all the tools to be a special football player in this conference."

Not only does Ealy pose a threat to opposing defenses, but he is also a threat on special teams.

Ealy began the year as one of the two deep men on the kickoff return team. He remains a gunner on Arizona's punt team, picking up three solo tackles in limited action.

Coming into this season, Ealy was looked at as a possible No. 3 receiver behind seniors Lance Relford and Andrae Thurman. But, when the team lost the services of Thurman to academic troubles, Ealy was forced into the limelight a transition Ealy welcomed with open arms.

"It's tough to lose a player like that," Ealy said. "We just had to keep moving on."

Ealy said Rison told all the receivers that they had to step up and make plays in the absence of Thurman. With a year of experience under his belt and the departures of Thurman and All-Pac-10 wideout and current Chicago Bear Bobby Wade Ealy chose to take it upon himself to become the primary target of all three Arizona quarterbacks.

"I took it upon myself to be the guy to make a play," Ealy said. "I love being that guy."

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