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August 28, 2007

Mike Stoops talks personnel

On top of previewing BYU, UA head coach Mike Stoops spent a lot of time talking about his own personnel during his weekly press conference on Monday. Here are his thoughts on some of the Arizona players.

On sophomore safety Cam Nelson:

"Cam plays extremely confident on the field. He's a very mature young player and has an excellent camp. He brings a lot of speed, athleticism and violence to our defense. That's why he's in there. He'll strike you and he plays fearless. That's the thing I love about him."

On Nelson at safety as opposed to nickelback:

"We wanted to make sure he got comfortable in that position because we want him on the field every down. If he's playing two different positions, you're losing reps at one formation grouping. Dane (Krogstad) will play a great deal more and so will Corey Hall. Dane's played a lot. He'll be there in nickel situations. He's a very good outside linebacker that we need to keep on the field more."

General thoughts on depth chart:

"I thought Adrian McCovy had far and away his best camp, I like what Devin Ross has done at corner, I like a lot of our young players - what Trevin Wade did - we're developing.

"Offensively, I think our key is that we keep developing young players on the offensive line. That's probably the group that we can't afford getting our guys hurt. If we can keep those five on the field, we feel like we have a really solid group.

"The receivers, you have to look at their improvement as a group, it's pretty unique. We're getting better at receiver, a weakness for us a year ago. In this offense, the receivers have to be the focal point so they have to really excel. Darrell Wyatt does a great job with those guys.

"We need to continue developing our quarterbacks. It gets a little concerning because it's great that Kris (Heavner) is our backup but you always want to be building for the future too. But Kris played his way into a very strong backup role."

On Delashaun Dean:

"Dela has shows a lot of capability as a redshirt freshman and we just have to keep working with him. He makes a lot of young mistakes but I think he's a very talented receiver that has tremendous hands."

On Chris Jennings improvement since last year:

"I think he's more confident in what he's doing. I think Chris is most effective when he doesn't try to be somebody that's not Chris. His strengths are that he's a physical runner, he has great hands coming out of the backfield and is a very solid runner of the football. Chris, when he tries to do too much, gets out of his element and then things start to go a little bit astray.

"He just needs to be Chris Jennings, go out and play to his strengths and he's going to be a very effective player in this system. He's so versatile; he's one of the most versatile players I've ever seen that's that physically gifted that runs as well as he does and catches the ball as well as he does."

On the kicking/punting game:

"Jason (Bondzio) has kicked extremely well in camp. He doesn't have the range that Nick (Folk) had, but his accuracy has been good. Having an experienced kicker gives you an advantage in close games but we feel from 50 (yards) and in that Jason gives us an excellent chance to win every time we step on the field. Whether we stretch that out any more, I would say probably not at this point. We feel at 50 and in we're very good and have an excellent success rate.

"Keenyn Crier is a kid that has punted the ball exceptionally well. I think all our kickers have huge talent; it's consistency every time you step on the field that you look for. In young kickers you don't always get that and if we can just get consistency out of these two guys then we're going to have an excellent kicking game.

"(Crier's leg) is freaky strong, what he can do to a ball. He's one of the best young punters I've seen in a long time. His consistency is what you have to be worried about. It gets mechanical and that's the great thing. If we can continue to work on his mechanics, he can be a national kicker. He just needs to keep working, like all young players. He's just young in his mechanics.

"He got here very raw and coach (Joe) Robinson has done an excellent job working on his mechanics to get him where he's at today. He has a long way to go but if he continues to improve, he'll be a special punter."

On Spencer Larsen's importance to the defense:

"He brings maturity, leadership and experience to the team. Those are awful important aspects to playing the type of football that we're going to need. And he's a very good football player on top of it. He's very special."

On Willie Tuitama's comfort level with the new offense:

"I think he's very comfortable. I think he likes it, the simplicity of it and the ability to call plays is so much simpler for him. That's a big thing for quarterbacks. We've had a lot of problems just communication wise so hopefully we won't have those problems Saturday and we can get our commutation in, get him at the line and see what he wants to do."

On the defensive line's progression:

"It's a very good group that we look for more production out of this year. I think they played solid as a group but we need more production out of all four of them. When you look statistically, we need more big plays.

"It gets hard because all d-linemen are never going to be stat leaders but we still need more pressure and more plays from our d-line. I think they're all capable of doing more than they did a year ago. I thought they were all steady, but all of them have a chance to be impact players this season."

On which true freshmen could play against BYU:

"Rob Gronkowski would be one, Kaniela Tuipulotu would be another. He's running three (string) right now, depending on how many plays we run, he could be a factor.

"(Nicholas) Grigsby would be a factor, we're still waiting this NCAA Clearinghouse. It's absolutely ridiculous that they can put a kid on hold for weeks on end. He's one that we're disappointed we haven't been able to practice. He'd be another one. I think that's it, those three. (He's been out) ten days now. It's been under review."

On any injuries:

"We should be 100% healthy."

On punt/kick returners:

"Antoine (Cason) will return punts, Devin Ross will return kicks and Mike (Thomas) will back both those guys up."

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