September 26, 2006

Football Notebook: Stoops confident in Tuitama

UA head coach Mike Stoops updated several injuries during his weekly press conference on Monday and gave his thoughts on how some of the Wildcats competed against USC. Here's the latest from Stoops.

Stoops confident in Tuitama

While Arizona fans have debated whether or not highly touted sophomore quarterback Willie Tuitama is in a slump, Stoops doesn't feel as if there is a debate. Tuitama has been impressive in Stoops' eyes and is happy with how he played on Saturday night against USC.

"I thought Willie threw the ball as well as he has since he's been here," said Stoops. "I thought he had some great throws. He got a little antsy and rushed a couple things but that's just inexperience. He's still only started (seven) games in his career. I really thought he threw the ball accurately and had a lot of zip."

Stoops says that the problem with Arizona's offense hasn't been Tuitama, but the others players on the field at the same time.

"Willie's not the type of quarterback that can carry a team on his back," Stoops said. "We have to be able to run the football, protect the quarterback, run routes and get people open. When people get open he puts the ball right where it needs to be.

"I'm more encouraged than discouraged by a long way. There's nothing he can't do on the field. He's only going to get better and better. We have to get better, keep building our team around him and get stronger around him so we can make those plays. My concerns are the players around him, that's where we need to get better."

Tuitama suffers minor injury

Late into the USC game it looked as if Tuitama may have suffered a serious leg injury, but on Sunday tests revealed that the quarterback should be fine.

"I was worried about his leg but it wasn't his leg, it's a calf bruise," said Stoops. "It was a little scary but we knew (Sunday) that it wasn't going to be anything too serious."

Tuitama wore a boot on Monday and missed practice. He's expected to return on Tuesday.

Other injury news

According to Stoops, Syndric Steptoe should return to practice on Tuesday after missing Monday with a deep thigh bruise. Brandon Tatum is out for Saturday's game with a high ankle sprain.

Yaniv Barnett is "questionable" with an arrhythmia in his heart.

"It's something they have to watch," said Stoops. "Hopefully he'll be back soon."

Defensive tackle out for season

Senior defensive tackle Paul Philipp is out for the season - and likely his career - after spraining a ligament in his knee against USC.

"He's most likely done," said Stoops. "He's just had a tough career battling injuries. It's been a tough career for him."

Smith moves inside

Arizona senior Marcus Smith has moved from defensive end to defensive tackle, where he started against USC. Stoops was encouraged by his play at the new position.

"Marcus did well inside," Stoops said. "He'll get better as he plays."

The most difficult task for Smith will be adjusting to the more physical style of play.

"It's more physical with people coming at you from both sides," said Stoops. "Usually the centers and guards are a little but stronger and tackles are more athletic."

Freshmen receivers still not seeing the field

Many UA fans have wondered the status of Arizona's freshmen wide receivers, which haven't seen much playing time at all this season.

Terrell Reese played late against USC and Terrell Turner saw limited action at LSU, but neither receiver has been given too many reps.

"It's just that the games haven't presented themselves that way," said Stoops. "We got Terrell (Reese) a couple of plays the other night. They just need a lot of work. It's hard for freshmen to play, especially true freshmen.

"They haven't been in the system long enough to come in, play and compete against the quality of opponents that we've had to face."

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