Freshman running back Sprotte joins brother at mother's alma mater

By Craig Degel

Arizona Daily Wildcat

He could have been a Cornhusker. He could have been a Cardinal. He could have even been a Sun Devil. But in the Sprotte family, football and Sun Devils don't mix.

So running back Scooter Sprotte, from Blue Ridge High School in Lakeside, Ariz., chose Arizona, even though Nebraska, Stanford, Arizona State and even a few Western Athletic Conference schools gave Sprotte a call to try and lure his services.

"The coaching change at Stanford kind of screwed that up," said Sprotte, who was the 39th best player in the Far West according to Super Prep magazine and was an All-Western Region selection by Blue Chip. "I had pretty much decided that I was going to stay in the state so after I made my trips to ASU and Tucson, I had made my decision."

His trip and what Sprotte calls "a little family pressure" are what eventually made him a Wildcat. After all, Sprotte's brother Jim is a junior linebacker at UA. For Bill and Barbara Sprotte, having one son in Tempe and one in Tucson would be like having two sons fighting on opposite sides of the Civil War. The fact that Mom was a UA graduate probably helped a little bit, too.

As a senior, Sprotte was the winner of the Ed Doherty Award, which is given to the best high school football player in. The 5-foot-10-inch, 200-pound Sprotte rushed for a state record 2,976 yards during his senior season. He also played linebacker on a Blue Ridge team that went undefeated and outscored its opponents by a 629-69 margin.

Sprotte came to a school that is relatively deep at tailback, with junior Gary Taylor and sophomore Kevin Schmidtke, who played as a true freshman in '94. The task now was to impress the coaches enough to give him some playing time.

"I was hoping I wouldn't redshirt," Sprotte said.

He got his wish.

In his first collegiate game, Arizona's 41-9 rout of Pacific, Sprotte carried the ball eight times for 55 yards and a touchdown, the only rushing score for a UA tailback in '95.

"That felt great," Sprotte said. "I didn't even have to look up. There's a little bit of satisfaction to score a touchdown in the first game of my college career."

Last week against Southern Cal, Sprotte carried the ball twice for 12 yards and caught a 16-yard pass from Brady Batten on the Wildcats' only touchdown drive.

But as Arizona head coach Dick Tomey would be quick to point out, being a running back means more than just carrying the football in a forward direction. Blocking is a big aspect that many running backs have trouble learning correctly.

Enter Gary Taylor, who is as close to being the sage veteran at tailback as Arizona gets.

"He helps out a lot," Sprotte said of Taylor. "On some of the drills that we run, he'll help explain it to me. He helps to explain how things are."

Sprotte could also learn a few things from Schmidtke, The similarities between Scmidtke and Sprotte are many. Both are compact, fast, finesse runners. Schmidtke also played as a true freshman and scored a touchdown in his first game.

Sprotte currently has a 6.7 yards-per-carry average, albeit in a limited role. He is listed as the third-string tailback on Arizona's depth chart. But that could change soon.

"I'm not a big numbers guy because it all comes in different situations," Tomey said. "But it seems like he has 10 touches of the ball and he's averaging 10 yards per carry."

With the possibility of Arizona switching to a tailback-by-committee type style, Tomey has said that Sprotte may get more carries than he has been getting.

"Scooter," Tomey said, "is probably farther along than any freshman we've had in a long time in terms of the whole package."

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