Punter Baugher out for season with ACL tear
Fresh off an impressive debut performance from quarterback Willie Tuitama, Arizona football head coach Mike Stoops announced at his weekly press conference yesterday that the freshman would make his first start Saturday at Oregon State.
"Willie has a tremendous future if he continues to progress," he said. "He has a competitive edge and tremendous confidence in himself, and that shows in the way he plays."
Tuitama, a true freshman from Stockton, Calif., took over for redshirt sophomore Richard Kovalcheck midway through the first quarter of Arizona's 28-21 loss to No. 14 Oregon. He finished the night with 182 yards and two touchdowns on 18-of-34 passing.
"I thought Willie made some great throws and showed signs of being a tremendous player," Stoops said.
With Arizona's postseason hopes officially dashed, the focus for the remainder of the 2005 season is the future.
"We've got to win out. It'd be great for the people coming back next year just to have four wins under their belts," said senior running back Mike Bell after Saturday's game.
That goal begins in Corvallis, Ore., Saturday, against an OSU team that Stoops said should show Arizona numerous blitz packages to rattle the young quarterback.
Tuitama said he is ready.
"Myself and the receivers just have to know who's hot, so we can counteract (the blitz)," he said. "Oregon (was) in cover-zone a lot, and they brought it. It was good for us."
Tuitama attributes his preparation to extensive film sessions, a trait senior tight end and offensive lineman Brad Brittain said makes the freshman an asset to the offense.
"The guy watches like three hours of film a day," Britain said. "He knows what he's doing."
Tuitama said former California and current Green Bay Packer quarterback Aaron Rodgers stressed the importance of studying game film when the two met at the Elite 11 Camp in Orange County, Calif., in 2004.
"(Rodgers) told me to be in there and watch film," he said. "Sometimes he was in there until 12, 1 in the morning, just studying. (Film) really helps you prepare."
An area Tuitama will need to study up on his time management, a "mental phase" Stoops said is part of the freshman's baptism into the college game.
Arizona was forced to burn all of its timeouts early in the fourth quarter Saturday.
"He's got a long way to go, but the mental phase is something he'll get better with throughout the year, getting the majority of the reps," Stoops said.
Injuries continue to plague Arizona. The team was hit hard Saturday, losing four players over the course of the game: punter Danny Baugher, offensive guard Kili Lefotu, receiver Syndric Steptoe and tight end Brad Wood.
Baugher, the nation's leading punter averaging 48 yards per kick, suffered a possible torn anterior cruciate ligament on a bizarre play when the senior returned a blocked punt 40 yards.
"It's a sad way for a kid to end his (collegiate) career," Stoops said. "He has a bright future. Hopefully he can get back and get himself ready for the (NFL) draft."
Lefotu suffered an ankle sprain in the first half Saturday and is questionable for the OSU game.
Sophomore linebacker Dane Krogstad will likely remain out of the lineup for another two weeks with a knee injury suffered Oct. 8 at Southern California.
Wood and Steptoe will be back in action Saturday, Stoops said.