Year one, well, was what it was when it comes to the Arizona football program. Head coach Kevin Sumlin came on the scene in mid-January and put together his first spring practice and, well, got through it. Year two, should go better. Or so you’d think.
It is different.
“Last year was a learning process for most of these guys from both sides,” Sumlin said on Monday evening after his team’s first of 15 spring practices. “We got to know them and for them to get to know us, expectation-wise.”
This year, Sumlin said, the guys know what to expect on and off the field. As he said, a year and a half makes a big difference and should this year. He has his own recruiting class in, seven being early enrollees.
“It’s a lot different,” he said, comparing year one and year two.
So different some of the practices this spring will be in the newly minted Cole and Jeannie Davis Indoor Center. It started there on Monday and most of the players eventually went outside and next door to its usual practice area.
“It’s been great,” Sumlin said of the new facility. “We utilized it last week when it was a little rainy and cool.
The players have been in it for some PRPs (player-run practices). We’ve done some conditioning in here when the weather was a little iffy. There’s a lot of bells and whistles here. It’s a great-looking facility.”
Now it’s up to Sumlin to get his team in the same shape – great looking, even if it is just March. It’ll be a work in progress as is usually the case in March. First order of business may be to find a leader. Who that will be is anyone’s guess, although senior running back J.J. Taylor said he thinks it’s everyone’s job to be a leader.
“We really didn’t have that last year,” Sumlin said. “We gotta find some internal leadership on this team, and that’s through practicing. We have to find some consistency.”
Sumlin talked about some of his young wide receivers maturing and his lineman stepping up. And the defense must improve. It all starts with consistency.
The leadership, though, might even start with presumed starting quarterback Khalil Tate, who had an up-and-down season last year. When asked about his leadership and where it’s at, Sumlin said, he wasn’t sure where that was at.
“Leadership is a work in progress,” Sumlin said. “You have to continue to work at that. Last year we had guys who tried to lead by example and for me that’s just doing your job. Leadership isn’t (about) telling people what’s wrong or telling people what to do, it’s also the ability to see something (wrong) and correct it when coaches aren’t around.”
Arizona’s Spring Game is scheduled for April 13.