Utah coach on Arizona Wildcats’ potent punt returner: ‘Shun Brown’s got all of our respect’
Notes and takeaways from the Arizona Wildcats’ media availability after practice Tuesday, as well as Utah coach Kyle Whittingham’s appearance on the weekly Pac-12 coaches conference call:
* Whittingham on Arizona’s Shun Brown, who already has two punt-return touchdowns: “Shun Brown’s got all of our respect.” Utah has the reigning Ray Guy Award winner in Mitch Wishnowsky. The Utes have allowed minus-1 yard on punt returns in three games.
* Arizona is averaging 328 rush yards per game – most in the Pac-12 and fourth most in the nation. But the offensive line can play better, according to UA coach Rich Rodriguez: “Our best game has not been played yet from what I know they can do.”
* O-line coach Jim Michalczik doesn’t view stats, such as Arizona’s rushing average, as a measure of his unit’s performance: “Are we playing to our potential? That’s our goal.”
* Containing Arizona’s running game is the No. 1 priority for Utah, per Whittingham. I’ll have more on the matchup between the Wildcats’ offensive line and the Utes’ defensive front later today.
* One example of how Arizona has tried to change things up on offense: Rodriguez said freshman tight end Bryce Wolma at times has been the first option on pass plays. Wolma leads the team with 11 receptions, all of which have come in the past two games.
* Rodriguez praised the Utah defense’s aggressiveness - not necessarily in the blitzing sense but in the way the Utes attack when they see something and how they play man coverage.
* Arizona must be conscious of changing up its signals, operations and verbiage when facing league foes. Also: Utah has an ex-Wildcat, linebacker Cody Ippolito, who’s familiar with how Arizona operates. Ippolito transferred to Utah in the offseason.
* Analytical Arizona tackle Gerhard de Beer said he still sometimes thinks too much on the field. He’s striving to play without hesitation.
* Receiver Cam Denson had a yellow jersey on as he walked from the practice field to the locker room. Denson, who missed much of spring and summer workouts because of a foot injury, has appeared in only one game thus far, catching one pass for 5 yards.
* Many criticized Rodriguez for leaving QB Brandon Dawkins in the game too long at UTEP. I asked Rodriguez how he bases those decisions. He said he generally will take out his starters “if you get to the fourth quarter and have a multi-touchdown lead. But as you’ve seen this year and every year, there’s so many talented quarterbacks that give teams a chance to come back, I don’t get too comfortable too soon.”