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Saturday, November 22, 2014 | Last updated: 1:40am

Casino del Sol All-Star game will give senior Wildcats chance to impress



Every year, there’s a barrage of college football All-Star games so athletes with NFL aspirations can try to impress professional scouts, in hopes of hearing their names called in April’s NFL draft.

The second annual Casino del Sol All-Star game, which will be played at 7 p.m. Friday at Kino Stadium, is less prominent than the nationally televised Senior Bowl or East-West Shrine game, but it still gives lesser-known college athletes on the national scale, like the UA’s Taimi Tutogi and Kyle Quinn, a chance to play in front of a variety of scouts.

“A lot of guys don’t think it’s that big of a deal because of the Senior Bowl and East-West Shrine,” said Tutogi, former Arizona fullback/defensive end. “But it’s an opportunity. There’s guys out here watching and big-time coaches, you just have to take advantage of every opportunity you’ve got.”

Last year Arizona had six participants, including Pittsburgh Steelers defensive back Rob Golden.

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Here are a few reasons why this year’s game is intriguing:

Professional presence

Earlier this week, Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson attended practices at Kino.

Last year, Thompson and San Francisco 49ers general manager Trent Baalke attended the game, along with scouts from 31 of 32 NFL teams.

That goes to show that although this is a lesser-known postseason All-Star game, it still catches the attention of scouts.

Proven success

The inaugural game last year featured six NFL Draft picks and an additional 61 players from the 2012 roster entered NFL training camps in July.

As for the UA specfically, linebacker Paul Vassallo and receiver Gino Crump (Arizona Cardinals) and Golden (Pittsburgh) received training camp invites.

Coaching prominence

The coaching staffs for both the East and West teams have some familiar names.

For the West, former longtime Arizona coach Dick Tomey is the head coach and former Wildcats offensive line coach Ron McBride is an assistant. NFL great Andre Reed, a seven-time Pro Bowl receiver for the Buffalo Bills, will also be on the staff.

Houston Nutt, the former Arkansas and Ole Miss head coach, will lead the East squad.

“They’re all big-time coaches out here,” Tutogi said.

Prospect storylines

Other than the Wildcats playing — Tutogi, center Kyle Quinn and defensive end Dominique Austin — there will be a few other players of interest in Friday’s game.

Kansas quarterback Dayne Crist is a former five-star recruit and Notre Dame transfer. In fact, coming out of high school he was ranked ahead of Florida State’s E.J. Manuel, NC State’s Mike Glennon and a little-known former Stanford quarterback named Andrew Luck. Crist struggled at Kansas in 2012, throwing four touchdowns against nine interceptions.

Elsewhere, Auburn running back Onterio McCalebb ranks fourth all-time for the Tigers in all-purpose yardage with 4,566 yards.

Arizona State punter Josh Hubner ranked second in the nation with a 47.1 yard gross punting average.

Washington State quarterback Jeff Tuel is a former Arizona recruit, and Oklahoma defensive linemen JaMarkus McFarland and Stacy McGee played for former Wildcats head coach and current Sooners defensive coordinator Mike Stoops.


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