UW coach to quit at year's end, A.D. announces change days before facing UA
When the Arizona football team plays Washington in Seattle this weekend, Wildcat players will have some first-hand insight as to what the Huskies are going through.
UW athletics director Todd Turner announced yesterday that Keith Gilbertson will step down as Washington's head football coach, effective at the end of the season.
"It's dissapointing any time you see a coach or staff have to go through that," said UA coach Mike Stoops of his counterpart this weekend. "I dont know how it's going to affect their team, but I would expect nothing from them but their best shot."
The Arizona players were in a similar situation last year when the school fired head coach John Mackovic midway through the year.
Wildcat junior defensive end Copeland Bryan said it was hard for some team members last year because they built a connection with some of the coaches, but it will really depend on the Huskies' attitudes as to how they respond to the news.
"I don't know how their players will respond. I'm sure there are a lot of guys who are upset by that. There season is still going on and they can't just give up and die," Bryan said.
Junior defensive end Marcus Smith had a similar outlook.
"It depends on the team and what kind of personality they have," said Smith. "They could step up and play a good game and come to compete, or they can fold under the controversy."
Last season, Arizona beat Washington five games after Mackovic was let go, and the Huskies will attempt to return the favor to the Wildcats just days after losing their own head coach.
Cats make bad 'first' impressions this season
A big reason for Arizona's 1-7 start is the team's play in the first quarter. In six of the team's eight games, the Wildcats have fallen behind and have been outscored in the opening period 61-13.
"We've been terrible in the first quarter throughout every single game," Stoops said.
He added that the team tries to start off aggressively, but early mistakes doom the Wildcats.
"That first half seems to be crucial," said Bryan. "I couldn't tell you why in that first half we always have a hard time getting going."
He said it could have something to do with guys over-thinking and being too anxious to start the game.
"A lot of guys are really thinking a lot about what's going on in the field and what they have to do," he said. "They get out there a little uncomfortable when the game starts, but as the game goes on they get more comfortable with their abilities."
Freshman corner backs into wideout spot
Stoops said the team would try freshman cornerback B.J. Dennard at receiver for the team's final three games.
He said the play of the Wildcats other two freshman corners has given him confidence to put Dennard on the offense at a position he played in high school.
"A big smile came to my face," Denard said when learning of the change.
"We'll try and get a feel for if he has a better opportunity to play and try to get him on the field," Stoops said.
Dennard said the UA coaching staff pulled no punches, giving him full offensive practice despite not knowing many of the plays or sets.
"Coach just threw me into the fire," the former high-school receiver said. "It came back to me quick, like it never left."
Dennard has played sparingly thus far for Arizona, seeing most of his playing time on special team squads.
Arizona could receive the services of sophomore defensive tackle Paul Philipp this week according to Stoops. Philipp has been out since midway through the Wildcats' 37-17 loss at UCLA.
Before getting injured, the sophomore defensive tackle recorded nine tackles, including two sacks.
"I think this is his best opportunity to be back. He's still listed as questionable," said Stoops.
He also expects sophomore receiver Syndric Steptoe to return to practice today. Steptoe is the Wildcats' leading receiver who missed the Oregon State game because of a back injury.
Junior running back Gilbert Harris won't be as fortunate. Stoops said Harris will remain doubtful for the Wildcats' game against the Huskies.