Wray has hope of joining premier backfield

By Eric Wein

Arizona Daily Wildcat

It was one of the most memorable plays of the 1993 Arizona football season. But it happened to one of the most forgettable players.

With the score tied 24-24 at Arizona Stadium, Stanford quarterback Steve Stenstrom dropped back around the Cardinal 15-yard line. He looked for an open receiver, but defensive lineman Akil Jackson nailed him, jarring the ball loose.

Out of nowhere, reserve cornerback Spencer Wray recovered the ball and tried to score but was pulled down from behind. It didn't matter because Arizona kicked a field goal on the next play for its sixth straight win.

Wray had three tackles and three pass deflections when he started that game in place of Claudius Wright. But six months later, Wray is working in spring practice with hopes of returning to the starting lineup. That Stanford game is just a distant memory.

"I try to put that in the past," Wray said. "I have to put my stuff together for the future. That was last year. I still have to prove myself this year."

After being listed as strong safety Brandon Sanders' backup entering spring practice, Wray has been moved back to the cornerback position and will likely compete against Mike Scurlock for a spot opposite Wright. But, as his coach has said, nothing is certain during the spring.

"It doesn't matter to me," said Wray, a 5-foot-11, 189-pound senior-to-be from Los Angeles. "I'll play anywhere."

His efforts to improve this spring come under the guidance of first-year secondary coach Ted Williams, who was hired after Johnnie Lynn, an assistant for seven years at Arizona, took a job in the NFL.

Williams said he is positive with Wray and continually reminds him of eliminating bad habits. Williams said the young defensive back still needs to improve on several elements in his technique, mainly on his footwork in backpedaling and turning to cover the receiver.

"I think if he keeps improving, he's going to make a big contribution to this football team," Williams said. "I'm asking him to be patient."

At this stage in his football career, Wray is trying to transform the brilliance he had at a junior college to Division I. He was a first-team all-state pick at Los Angeles Southwest Community College and then reluctantly decided to redshirt upon transferring to the UA.

"It was kind of frustrating at first," Wray said. "I really didn't want to redshirt, but it was a good thing for me. I watched from the sideline last year and got to know the game good."

But Wray said his frustration has been lessened by the fact that he was behind the talented players in front of him.

"I knew I had to wait my turn," he said. "The other guys who have been here, they've worked hard, so I just used that as kind of a model for myself. They're great effort players. They may make a mistake, but they make it up with their effort."

Still, even as a backup last year, Wray is encouraged because he is studying under a premier defense.

"I love playing on this defense because you've got guys working hard for you," Wray said. "You make a slight mistake or something goes wrong, you know you've got 10 other guys watching your back. I feel that the other 10 guys have confidence in me and my coaches have confidence." Read Next Article