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Thursday, December 18, 2014 | Last updated: 6:31pm

Football notes: Flowers changes positions


Arizona holds first-ever "Beanie Bowl" scrimmage for Zona Zoo and media



The Arizona football team held its first ever “Beanie Bowl” on Friday at Arizona Stadium as a way to introduce the players to a game day situation and teach Zona Zoo about some of the new traditions head coach Rich Rodriguez is bringing to the program.

While the on-field action was non-tackle, and more of an offensive walk-through than an actual scrimmage, the game did give a good sense of who will actually be playing come Sept. 1.

Marquis Flowers switched to Linebacker

One of the big question marks heading into the game was where the Wildcats were going to play Marquis Flowers and Tra’Mayne Bondurant.

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By Gordon Gates / Arizona Daily Wildcat
Gordon Bates / Arizona Daily Wildcat Arizona Wildcats Football practice at Rincon Vista on Monday, August 15th 2011.

Flowers came to Arizona as the top recruit in 2010 and was the team’s leading tackler for the returners this year. Bondurant doesn’t have the same pedigree, but in his time last season he developed into a star on defense and a much-needed playmaker.

On the initial depth chart, both players were battling for a single position at safety, presumably the ‘spur’ in defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel’s 3-3-5 system.

At least for now, the team has moved Flowers to outside linebacker so both he and Bondurant could be on the field at the same time.

“For us, our outside linebacker / safety position is perfect for what (Flowers) does,” Rodriguez said. “(He and Bondurant) may be two of our best eleven defensively, so we want to get them both on the field.”

Injuries have hurt an already shallow linebacker core, as projected starter Rob Hankins was held out of the Beanie Bowl, and Flowers fit into the role well Friday. His 6’3”, 220 pound frame added some needed size and speed to the front seven in the 3-3-5.

Rodriguez said the move of Flowers to linebacker automatically makes them a lot faster at the position, something the defensive scheme is built upon.

“Marquis is a team guy and he loves football,” Rodriguez said. “I’m excited to watch him there. We need to get a lot of things (but) we need to get faster and bigger on defense and he certainly makes us faster when we move him.”

But the most important part of the move is that it allows for both Flowers and Bondurant to be on the field at the same time, as they are two impact players the Wildcats need in the inexperienced unit.

The decision to move Flowers to linebacker versus Bondurant was based purely on physicality, since Flowers carries around 20 pounds and five inches over Bondurant.

And while it may lead to an adjustment period for Flowers, the move also allows him to run with the linebackers during conditioning, making the transition a little easier for the junior.

“He’s living large, he’s making all these times (easily),” Rodriguez joked. “That’s a fun by-product for him.”

Players Experience a Stadium Atmosphere

The first annual Beanie Bowl was designed to let the Zona Zoo meet the team and see the North Endzone construction in preparation for the upcoming year.

But the game also let the players get a sense of the game day feel, including some of the true freshman who will be on the roster this season.

About 10 to 12 freshman won’t redshirt this year, making them available for action this year — including three to four walk-ons, Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez didn’t want to mention any names during the pregame press conference so he wouldn’t forget any player, leaving it up who will be dressing next Saturday up to some guesswork.

But since the teams were divided into Blue and White, with all the first and second stringers seemingly in the navy uniforms, it did give some insight on who might be making an impact this year.

Linebacker Keoni Bush-Loo, defensive end Kyle Kelley, scat back J.T. Washington and walk-on linebacker Shadow Williams were just a few of the freshman playing with the top two strings Friday night. It’s not a guarantee, but their inclusion in the Blue roster is a good indication that they may have big roles this season as true freshman.

A Slight Haka Change, Another D-Line injury

While the Zona Zoo section went over a few minor changes, such as different ways to use the term “Bear Down” in chants, there was one alteration to a UA tradition that could be noticeable on Saturdays.

All during fall camp Rodriguez has expressed his excitement for the Haka, a traditional war cry done by the Māori people of New Zealand. In the past the dance has been performed by the team before every game, but this year Rodriguez wants to add a slight change.

Before the start of the Beanie Bowl, the team went over to the sideline in front of Zona Zoo and performed the dance to the crowd.

The strong Polynesian influence on the team was seen as nose tackle Sione Tuihalamaka, fullback Taimi Tutogi, right tackle Lene Maiava and Bush-Loo were some of the Wildcats leading the dance.
Unfortunately Haka leader Tuihalamaka, a projected starter on an extremely thin defensive line, was limited to just the dance Friday night.

There has been no word on Tuihalamaka’s status, but with defensive end Justin Washington suspended from the team, and potential starters at end Dan Pettinato and Kirifi Taula both injured at the moment, the line looks to be in dire straits, especially if Tuihalamaka is going to miss regular season action.


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