By Arlie Rahn
Arizona Daily Wildcat
It's all said and done, the fat lady has finished singing. And while the Arizona football team does not have Pasadena, Calif., Dallas or even San Antonio, Texas, in its future, it has achieved a small amount of success by finishing above .500 for the fourth consecutive year.
"If you gauge this season by how you feel when it's over, I don't think there's been one better," UA coach Dick Tomey said. "I've never been prouder of a team than I am with these guys."
While Arizona (6-5 overall, 4-4 in the Pacific 10 Conference) finished sixth in the conference, this team might be best remembered as having one of Arizona's most talented senior classes, led by one Tedy Bruschi.
Bruschi, voted yesterday the 1995 Pac-10 defensive player of the year, tied Alabama's Derrick Thomas as the most prolific pass rusher ever to take the field when his 2 1/2 sacks against Arizona State Saturday tied the NCAA record of 52. Bruschi also had 74 tackles in his college career for a net loss of 456 yards.
"I think Friday's game was as good as Tedy has ever played," Tomey said. "Tedy and these guys will leave a legacy of something we can point to for a long time."
In fact, three other major founders of Desert Swarm will be moving on in the offseason. Nose guard Chuck Osborne, linebacker Charlie Camp and strong safety Brandon Sanders have all finished their tenure at Arizona. Osborne leaves with 19 career sacks and 32 tackles for losses, and a first-team all-conference standing. Sanders, also a first-team Pac-10 member, amassed nine interceptions and had been a major leader in all four years as a starter. Camp collected 219 total tackles and was the backbone of the defense this season.
While the offense will not be hit quite as hard, it will see its starting quarterback and wide receiver depart, along with a versatile offensive lineman. Quarterback Dan White has finished what might be considered the most successful career at signal caller for the Wildcats. He finished with 5,723 yards and 43 touchdowns with only 3.2 percent of his pass attempts intercepted.
Receiver Cary Taylor leaves with 56 catches for 795 yards, while Mani Ott finishes as the most consistent offensive lineman this season.
But one thing Tomey does have is some depth coming back in nearly every position next season. He said his main concern rests in whether some players will shine in a few key positions.
"We have to be able to run the ball better and have one guy step up for us in tailback next season," Tomey said. "We will also have some competition between Keith (Smith) and Brady (Batten) for the quarterback spot."
At running back, the Wildcats will have a host of good players but none have arisen as the break-away back this team needs. Junior Gary Taylor had 1,004 net yards and his 33 receptions were second on the team. But he scored only twice and averaged just 65 yards rushing per game. Kevin Schmidtke suffered a sophomore slump, finishing with a 2.6 yards-per-carry average and only one touchdown.
Two new faces are freshman Scooter Sprotte and Notre Dame transfer Leon Blunt. Sprotte averaged 5.3 yards a carry in spot duty this season, while Blunt had to sit out due to NCAA regulations regarding transfers.
As for recruiting, Tomey said he is unsure at where he will focus at this point.
"Right now we are just looking for good players at all of the positions," he said. "One need we have is probably high school offensive linemen, but really we just need some players that are good athletes and love to play. We are always on the lookout for that special pass rusher or big-play running back."
One area in which Tomey said he feels he is secure for next season is team leadership.
"We couldn't be better off with ( receiver Richard) Dice and (defensive lineman Joe) Salave'a leading our team," Tomey said. "These guys are excellent performers that lead by example."
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