By Eric Wein
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Experience seems to be the foundation of this year's UA football team. What follows is a rundown of the depth chart before tonight's game.
ù Quarterback: Dan White (6-5, 211 Jr.)
Last year, White was expected to come into his first season of college football and act as a virtually flawless dropback passer. He fended off lofty expectations and had a stable season as the Wildcats' signal caller while saving his best games for a few of Arizona's biggest Ä Southern Cal, ASU and the Fiesta Bowl.
Expected to improve his 49.8 completion percentage to 55 or 60 this year, White should be a much better quarterback with a year's experience. He may, however, go unnoticed while overshadowed by his colleagues in the quarterback-stocked Pacific 10 Conference.
Brady Batten (6-2, 205 So.) and Ryan Hesson (6-1, 204 So.) each got some playing time in Arizona's loss to UCLA last year.
ù Tailback: Ontiwaun Carter (5-10, 177 Sr.)
Having never received much recognition, Carter (897 yards on 178 carries last season) enters his fourth and final season as the Wildcats' tailback. Durable and dependable, Carter has missed only two games in his three-year career. Only Washington's Napoleon Kaufman is expected to be a better running back in the Pac-10. But with the help of his veteran line, Carter could slip past Kaufman and claim the top spot.
Robert Coulter (5-10, 190 Jr.) will back up Carter as Gary Taylor sits out with a shoulder injury. Kevin Schmidtke (5-9, 188 Fr.) caught coaches' eyes in preseason practice and will complete the rotation.
ù Fullback: Jason Patterson (5-11, 232 Jr.)
There is little experience at this spot because Billy Johnson was firmly rooted in that position until his UA career ended after the '93 season. Patterson (44 yards on 6 carries) blocked well, but wasn't given the ball very often.
He will be backed up by Charles Myles (6-1, 235 Fr.) and Joey Branch (6-0, 220 Jr.)
ù Wide receivers: Richard Dice (6-2, 207 So.) and Lamar Lovett (5-8, 178 Sr.)
Dice (13 catches for 235 yards) showed the potential to become the conference's best third down receiver last season by making difficult catches and having good hands. If the Wildcats are in a two-minute drill and need some clutch catches, Dice will be the one they will look for.
Lovett spent last year and the end of 1992 as a defensive back. In '91, he was Arizona's second-leading receiver.
Backup Cullen Plousha (6-3, 193 Sr.) was used sparingly in 1992, redshirted last year and ran track this past spring. Speed could be one of his strongest assets.
Jeff Chiasson (5-11, 183 Jr.) and Cary Taylor (5-11, 191 Jr.) also figure into the receiver rotation.
ù Offensive line: Center Ä Hicham El-Mashtoub (6-3, 295 Sr.); Left Guard Ä Pulu Poumele (6-3, 300 Sr.); Right Guard Ä Warner Smith (6-3, 290 Sr.); Left Tackle Ä Paul Stamer (6-4, 260 Sr.); Right Tackle Ä Joe Smigiel (6-5, 276 Sr); Tight End Ä Lamar Harris (6-2, 255 Jr.)
This could be the best group Arizona has ever had on their line. All have seen time at their positions and even the backups are experienced Ä Mani Ott (6-3, 255 Jr.) and Mu Tagoai (6-4, 354 Sr.).
Both Harris and his backup Tim Thomas (6-3, 248 Sr.) are fairly new to the mix but are expected to get more catches this year.
Overlooked and underrated in the past, this group is the biggest reason for Arizona's optimism about their offense.
ù Safeties: Free safety Ä Tony Bouie (5-10, 182 Sr.); Strong safety Ä Brandon Sanders (5-10, 175 Jr.)
These guys could become the most talked about UA duo to share their positions since a couple guys known simply as Khalid and Damon shared the same floor last spring. They have also been called the best safety tandem in the country.
Bouie (60 tackles, 6 interceptions) seems to get overlooked sometimes. He should lead the conference in interceptions after finishing second last year.
Sanders (55 tackles, 2 interceptions) is the hitter, knocking ball carriers off their feet. Former Helix (San Diego) High School and Arizona safeties Chuck Cecil and Jeff Hammerschmidt must be proud of their alma mater's latest product.
In their final year together, they could live up to their notoriety.
True freshmen Kelly Malveaux (5-9, 167 Fr.) and Chuck Rich (5-11, 190 Fr.) will back them up.
ù Cornerbacks: Claudius Wright (5-11, 187 Sr.) and Spencer Wray (5-11, 189 Sr.) or Mike Scurlock (5-11, 197 Sr.)
Wright came on two games into last season and earned a cornerback spot.
Wray started last year's Stanford game and is expected to get the nod tonight. Scurlock will also get some chances until the position is officially filled.
ù Linebackers: ILB Sean Harris (6-3, 235 Sr.) and ILB Kevin Gosar (6-1, 225 Sr.) or Charlie Camp (5-11, 225 Jr.); OLB Chris Lopez (6-1, 240 Sr.)
Harris is the leader of this group, entering the year with a strong chance of earning some postseason accolades. He was the Wildcats' second leading tackler last season with 85 (Brant Boyer was the leader with 90).
Camp sat out last season with an injury and Gosar moved over from special teams. Lopez spent last year on special teams and is expected to fill in for Thomas Demps, who suffered a knee injury last week.
ù Defensive line: Nose Guard Ä Chuck Osborne (6-2, 258 Jr.); Defensive Ends Ä Tedy Bruschi (6-1, 255 Jr.) and Akil Jackson (5-11, 233 Sr.); Defensive Tackle Ä Jim Hoffman (6-4, 275 Sr.)
Most teams would be in a rebuilding stage after the loss of a player like Rob Waldrop, who was last year's Outland Trophy winner. But Waldrop's departure doesn't appear to be too detrimental to the Wildcats' hopes on the defensive front.
Bruschi is the most visible of this group, finishing as the Pac-10's sack leader (19) last year. He's likely to make everyone's all-everything team at the end of the year and has the potential to give the Wildcats another Outland winner.
Strangely, Hoffman's stock has risen in the offseason. He played in the shadows of Bruschi and Waldrop last year but still managed to record nine sacks.
Osborne could be the biggest surprise of the season and is probably the most heralded newcomer. In limited opportunities playing behind Waldrop last year, Osborne showed he's capable of good things.
ù Kicker: Steve McLaughlin (6-1, 173 Sr.); Punter: Matt Peyton (6-1, 180 So.); Kick Returner: Cary Taylor; Punt Returner: Dice.
McLaughlin was a clutch player in his banner 1993 season. Without his successful kicks at the end of both the Stanford and Washington State games, Arizona would have finished with two ties and would not have received a Jan. 1 bowl berth or a share of the Pac-10 crown. He will serve as a scoring threat from 50-plus yards.
Peyton was inconsistent as Arizona's starting punter in '93. Without deep punts, the Wildcats can't expect to pin back opponents as easily as they have in the past couple of seasons.
Arizona's return unit loses its flash-and-dash guy after Chuck Levy's departure to the NFL but that hasn't put a damper on its expectations. Tomey has praised Dice for simply being able to catch the ball and prevent turnovers.
Taylor is a runback threat.
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