Arizona Athletics

Sumlin, Arizona get busy on first, eclectic day of practice

No one serenaded Kevin Sumlin on Friday night. And, well, he was more than Ok with that. Not only was it his first day of fall practice with his guys it was also his 54th birthday.

No candles. No cake. All business.

What a good, uneventful day for a coach who starts at his third school as a head coach. And truthfully, it was no different than his stops at Houston or Texas A&M. He did say the weather was great about 8 p.m. after about 90 minutes of working out, some of which were in front of the local media as the team gets ready for its first game on Sept. 1.

Kevin Sumlin addressing the media after UA’s first full day of practice. (Anthony Gimino photo)

“Every year it’s like this,” he said, in what seems to be his understated tone. “It’s a little different because it’s my birthday but that happens about every other year. Everybody is excited for football – fans are, coaches are, players are.”

And, he said, for the next two to three weeks the players will have a chance to bond, focus and be pretty much the only ones on campus.

“There’s a chemistry piece that goes along with playing the game,” he said. “it’s exciting every year. It’s the 30th year I’ve done this – including as an assistant – and it’s exciting every year.”

Clearly, he said, it was good to be “back on the grass” getting ready for the season.

“Today is always fun because everyone has a lot of energy,” he said. “Can we continue this energy, not just today but throughout the season, particularly the rest of the month?”

There’s a lot to like: he has one of the most talked about quarterbacks in the country in Khalil Tate, a pretty good running back corps and a defense that has continued to improve over the last couple of years.”

Most importantly, he wants “everyone to take a step forward” with no specific percentage of how much. He understands there will be good days and some bad days.

Some of the quick observations were:
• The defensive line will have some big bodies on the line, unlike the last few years when it appeared the line was haphazardly put together.

“Size is one thing but you have to be able to move,” Sumlin said. “I know they were bigger than they were last year, just looking at weights. Some needed to lose weight … Across the board they have improved physically.”

• Tate will be huge if Arizona is to have an even bigger success. He does have six other quarterbacks who are waiting – working – as apprentices but who will emerge as Tate’s all-Important backup is anyone’s guess. Stay safe, Tate, stay safe.

• The next few days will be Sumlin-free, at least from the media. We won’t have access to him, but instead it’ll be his assistants who will take the stage in the post-practice interview session. It’s a switch from past years when the head coach always gave an update after practice. Sumlin said the media doesn’t need to talk to him every day, saying he’d probably say the same thing. He did say this was a chance to get to know his assistants and their “human relation” stories.

• And finally, the media spent about 30 minutes watching practice and one of the first things I noticed was the music selection: The Boys are back in Town by Thin Lizzy, Daddy Yankee’s Gasolina and a country song by Toby Keith’s As Good as I once was. Um, yes a country song. I liked it. Sumlin, well, um …
“I have a lot of things going on so obviously I didn’t check the sound track,” he said, smiling. “We gotta play better than the sound track, I know that.
“It was real eclectic and I’m being nice. It started with the Boys are Back in Town, a song I hadn’t heard since I was 12.”

A day when being serenaded would have been welcomed.

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