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Football heads east for practice, opener in sight

By Kyle Kensing
Arizona Daily Wildcat
August 25, 2005
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A soggy Jimenez Practice Field relegated the Arizona football team to hold yesterday's practice at the Pima Community College East Campus.

Heavy rain early Tuesday left Jimenez Field in poor condition for team workouts, which were cancelled and moved yesterday.

Only the field was damp, however, as the Wildcats claimed to be in high spirits with the season opener at Utah eight days away.

"It's that time," head coach Mike Stoops said. "Our kids, for the last eight months, have put a lot of hard work into this."

Stoops said Arizona is quickly making the transition from holding intra-squad workouts to preparing for the season's first games.

"It's a different feeling, now that camp is over with and we're getting into a game week. It gets a little more exciting each day," Stoops said.

"Hopefully we'll be ready and we'll come out and play a great game in the next eight or nine days," he said.

With a depleted linebacker corps, Arizona must go into its 2005 kickoff against a Utah team that a season ago finished 12-0.

Redshirt freshman Ronnie Palmer suffered a broken foot earlier this week, which Stoops said will likely sideline Palmer for six weeks.

Senior linebacker Randy Sims is expected to return from a leg injury within the next few weeks, but will miss the Utah game.

Another senior, Sean Jones, will step into the starting role.

"We'll have to make do," Stoops said. "But Sean started in this game (against Utah) last year, so we shouldn't be too far out of whack."

The current linebacker woes are coupled with the spring injury of another linebacker, Spencer Larsen.

Larsen suffered a knee injury shortly after returning from a Mormon mission in Chile in April, but is expected back to the lineup sometime this season, possibly in September, Stoops has said.

No rest for the Wildcats against Utes

When the Wildcats take to Rice-Eccles Stadium Sept. 2, they will face a different Utes team than the one that defeated Arizona 23-6 in Tucson nearly a year ago.

The reigning Mountain West Conference and Fiesta Bowl champion Utes lost starting quarterback Alex Smith, who was selected No. 1 overall in April's NFL draft.

Utah head coach Urban Meyer is also gone, now working the sidelines for Florida.

Stoops said the departures will not make for a less competitive team.

"We'll still have to worry about the option. ... We have more to look at defensively," he said.

Utah ran an aggressive spread-option attack last season, where the quarterback lined up almost exclusively in the shotgun formation. Stoops said that is not likely to change with the addition of former Oregon offensive coordinator Andy Ludwid to Utah's staff.

Senior tailback Gilbert Harris said the squad is focused on a win heading into Utah.

"This is our golden opportunity," he said. "It's our chance for Arizona football to get noticed, playing in front of the nation on ESPN."

Arizona's season opener against Utah is a rare Friday-night game. The Mountain West has a contract with ESPN to play Fridays in an effort to gain national exposure.

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