Arizona Football

Arizona’s Gunnell all smiles as team gets through first practice

This is Grant Gunnell’s time. No ifs, ands or buts about it.

He knows it. Will he take advantage of being Arizona’s quarterback now that Khalil Tate is gone? We’ll see. But he’s sure ready – and happy about it.

He couldn’t stop smiling after Arizona’s first day of practice this fall in this COVID-delayed season.

Friday night – under the lights and under the watchful eye of head coach Kevin Sumlin via video – Gunnell said his arm is better, his feet movement is better and, well, his mental game is better.

That would be considered a trifecta for up-and-coming quarterbacks in need of making a move for a team that is searching for any kind of success this season.

He said he’s made a “tremendous jump” from last season. And I “felt that in practice,” he told a host of local reporters via Zoom after UA’s first one Friday.

He called the first practice “awesome” and going against the defense for the first time had him smiling.

“It really felt like football for the first time in a long time,” he said.

The last time was spring ball in March before the world changed because of COVID. Since then, he’s taken more of a leadership role by texting teammates and keeping them on the same page. He’s being more vocal.

“I wasn’t real vocal my freshman year but now I’ll try to step that up,” he said.

He’s making sure his teammates are putting in the work, staying on top of them more as an example. After all, he’s put in the work since COVID stopped everything. He said he’s worked seven days a week, going as far as saying the shutdown was “a blessing in disguise” because he had to work.

They all have. As for the team being picked to finish last in the Pac-12 South, well, Gunnell said, “After tonight’s practice, that’s a joke to me. I feel like we’re going to shock some people. Defense looked amazing; offense looked amazing.”

They are on the clock. It started Friday afternoon.

Notable

Head coach Kevin Sumlin said he wasn’t sure if he’d be on the practice field on Saturday after missing the first day because he had been diagnosed with COVID-19. He said if he isn’t back it’s likely he’d be back for Monday’s practice. The team has Sunday off.

He added running back Bam Smith and defensive lineman JB Brown have opted out for the season. And that wide receiver Jalen Johnson has been suspended for violating a COVID protocol.

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