Injuries elevate freshman from third-string to starter

Despite its starter's last name, the

Arizona football team's fortunes

with the tight end position have been anything but.

Mike Lucky, the Wildcats' newest starting tight end, never expected to be at the top of the depth chart at this point in the (pre)season, but, then again, he never expected the injuries to tight ends Damon Terrell and Tim Thomas, either.

Add that to the fact that Lucky is a redshirt freshman, and he has every excuse to be nervous. But don't tell him that.

"Even when Damon was here, we all knew that we were going to play, so it wasn't like being just thrown in," Lucky said. "All year I knew that I would get a little playing time. Now it might be more."

Arizona's passing attack involves short-to-medium, high-percentage passes. Therefore, Lucky must head into the open field prepared to catch the ball despite the fact that some of the best linebackers in college football will always be roaming near. For Lucky, this should be no problem. He caught 36 passes for 650 yards and 11 touchdowns as a senior at Antioch (Calif.) High School. In fact, Lucky was rated as the 15th best tight end in the country by Super Prep.

The Arizona offensive scheme also involves a good deal of rushing. Therefore, Lucky will need to be ready to block those same linebackers and defensive lineman.

"There's always a concern about people's blocking," said Arizona head coach Dick Tomey. "He's just got to learn, he's a freshman."

If you have to learn from anybody, you might as well learn from the best. Lucky spent the 1994 season as a scout team member going up against the No. 2 rushing defense in the nation a defense that included three consensus All-Americans in Tedy Bruschi, Tony Bouie and Sean Harris, who is now a linebacker with the Chicago Bears. He also spent last season under the tutelage of Lamar Harris, who caught 21 passes for 234 yards and three touchdowns in 1994. Harris is currently trying to make the Indianapolis Colts' roster.

After practice, Lucky and the three other tight ends Mike Metzler, Sean O'Brien and converted defensive lineman Jimmy Sprotte work on the less physical aspects of blocking, including choosing the correct blocking scheme, between tackle and tight end.

"We usually do all of our blocking during the first 10 or 15 periods of practice, working on our technique," Lucky said. "What we do afterwards is just mental."

Lucky also credits junior tight end Mike Metzler with helping him progress. Metzler is the only tight end of the four with game experience.

"He always helps out. He's the human playbook," Lucky said, laughing. "He keeps the group going. He's the jokester."

But at 7:07 p.m. on September 2, the laughing will stop. The spotlight will shine on Lucky and the rest of the revamped offensive line as they take on Pacific in their season opener. Then it will be time to see if the tight end can use all he has been taught.

"I think he'll be okay," Tomey said. "He was going to have the luxury of being the third-team guy and coming along slowly, but now he doesn't have that luxury."

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