Analysis: Football Spring Game offers glimpse as to what's ahead
On a night when onlookers came to watch an explosive offense and a potential Heisman candidate, it was the defensive side of the ball that stole the show as team Arizona Defense won the Spring Game 55-46. Marcel Yates’ unit beat out the highly anticipated Kevin Sumlin offense that fans across Southern Arizona have been chomping at the bit to lay eyes on.
The defense, which was led by its young but experienced linebackers in former Pac-12 Freshman of the Year Colin Schooler, was all over the field Saturday night as they seemed to force turnover after turnover. It is either a terrible sign for the offense, or one of the best signs you can have as a defense, which is just one of the many questions fans and writers alike will ask during the spring evaluation period.
With an Arizona offense capable of lighting up the scoreboard, being able to create turnovers to give the offense extra possessions is going to be crucial in Arizona’s bid for the Pac-12 South next fall. The defensive unit, which is still incredibly young, looks to move on from the massive growing pains they went through last year as the Wildcats looked to fill voids by adding girth on the defensive line to be able to give the All-American linebackers of Arizona more room to roam and hunt down ball-carriers.
Arizona fans and the coaching staff were finally pleased when Khalil Tate flicked a 51-yard toss down the sideline to Shawn Poindexter on the first play of the second half. The the moans of uncertainty quickly morphed into a burst of ecstatic excitement once the couple thousand witnesses on hand were told the catch on the field stood.
It’s just another play to add to the growing list of jaw-dropping highlights that the returning Arizona quarterback has put together since bursting onto the scene last October. The talismanic talent looked comfortable in the new offensive system that has been slowly implemented over the last couple months Sumlin has been in charge. Even with an interception that was tipped, Tate didn’t let the mishap ruin his night, as he later found his new favorite target, Poindexter, again for a shorter throw in the corner of the end zone that showed off the touch Tate has been working on this offseason.
Tate wasn’t the only bright spot on the offensive side of the ball, as the stable of running backs that seem to have appeared overnight in Tucson ran extremely hard throughout the night as Nathan Tilford, Anthony Mariscal, Brandon Leon and reigning Pac-12 Co-Offensive Freshman of the Year J.J. Taylor stood out. The Old Pueblo’s possible version of the Four Horseman showed the new coaching staff that Tate isn’t going to be the only one making an impact this year. All four made defenders miss in a variety of ways throughout the night, whether it was from run-pass-options, dinks or dunks, the ball carriers ran downhill and made sure that arm tackles weren’t an option for the defense on the night.
The action on the field wasn’t the only thing Arizona coaches and staff were keeping an eye on, as the Wildcats hosted a multitude of recruits and coaches from Texas, Nevada and California for the weekend festivities. Recruiting is an area coach Sumlin looks to take to a level not reached under the Rich Rodriguez reign, which never finished with a recruiting class that was better than sixth in the Pac-12 since the start of the “rivals era,” according to 247Sports.
For the first official showing in the Sumlin era, the signs are promising, but one practice scrimmage doesn’t build Rome in a day — or something like that.
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