RB Mike Bell

2004 Statistics

Coach: Mike Stoops
3-8, 1 year
2004 Record: 3-8
at UCLA LOST 17-37
at Oregon LOST 14-28
at Washington WON 23-13
at Southern California LOST 9-49

2004 Final Rankings
AP-UR, Coaches-UR, BCS-UR

2005 Outlook

When Mike Stoops arrived last year, many believers thought that bringing in a coordinator/assistant from Oklahoma, a perennial national contender, to mend the Wildcat’s sinking ship would equal instant success. With but three wins on which to hang his first head coaching campaign, most will overlook what Stoops did accomplish - though only improving the school’s victory total by one, the juggernaut recruiting class and defensive advancements make nay-sayers naive. Stoops trimmed 80 yards and 10 points per game from opponents’ totals. The coach’s record of (being a part of) turning sagging programs around is consistent (see his Kansas State tenure), so, as proven, expect to first see the defense (under brother Mark’s tutelage) surge as this area becomes prototypical of the entire team’s advancements.

Stoops (similar to Steve Spurrier’s current plight) will take his conference foes and use these tough opponents to teach his team valuable lessons. Also similar, look for those tough early lessons to reflect mistakes that won’t then be repeated. Kids have to learn the hard way, but with Stoops, mistakes quickly become skills, not plaguing memories. The talent is there, so a turnaround shouldn’t be overlooked. But this is the Pac Ten, which means that accelerating any timetables could prove detrimental to longterm team improvements. Fans and alums have to let Stoops work his magic, even if losing persists. This campaign may not reflect how much the team improves via wins. With consistency already there on defense, though, it is the offense which will hold the team up.

No one doubts Arizona’s need for a quality field general. We foresee Canales, a QB specialist, improving the Wildcats under center enough such that more offensive balance can open up their yardage acquisition. The running game is strong, but not lightning quick, which makes their work cut out for this side of things – no passing game (again) will mean a stacked box and dismal results. New hurlers Austin and incoming frosh Tuitama will make/break these efforts. With all of the other quality units on offense, focus and blame become transparent if this happens. But any team that only gives its TEs/FBs a few paltry touches deserves to have foes predict its scheme(s).

Two slow openers cannot lull Arizona into anything, not with their four toughest tilts coming right after that. Breaking even would truly be an accomplishment; winning a few against the conference’s best, even if they finish under .500, would be just as big a step. Incremental steps, reflected through competitive consistency, are realistic/attainable goals that would definitively keep Arizona returning toward prominence.

Projected 2005 record: 3-8
DB Darrell Brooks
QB - 2 DL - 3
RB - 3 LB - 2.5
WR - 3.5 DB - 3
OL - 2.5 ..

Passing: Richard Kovalcheck, 136-67-6, 880 yds., 6 TD

Rushing: Mike Bell, 204 att., 950 yds., 5 TD

Receiving: Syndric Steptoe, 30 rec., 446 yds., 3 TD

Scoring: Nick Folk, 8-13 FG, 18-18 PAT, 42 pts.

Punting: Danny Baugher, 74 punts, 41.2 avg.

Kicking: Nick Folk, 8-13 FG, 18-18 PAT, 42 pts.

Tackles: Darrell Brooks, 73 tot., 48 solo

Sacks: Lionel Dotson, 3 sacks

Interceptions: Antoine Cason, 4 for 88 yds.

Kickoff returns: Syndric Steptoe, 17 ret., 22.6 avg., 0 TD

Punt returns: Ryan Eidson, 11 ret., 9.6 avg., 0 TD


OFFENSE: Ricky Williams-WR, Clarence McRae-TE, Steve Fleming-TE, Chris Johnson-OT, Keoki Fraser-C, Brandon Phillips-OT, Kris Heavner-QB (transferred), Biren Ealy-WR (dismissed)
DEFENSE: Carlos Williams-DT, Andre Torrey-DE, Patrick Howard-LB, Kirk Johnson-LB, Tony Wingate-DB

Sophomore Richard Kovalcheck brings tough lessons learned via real-game experience to the table, and will therefore be the likely starter. But this drop-back hurler has struggled to complete even half of his throws, and that sets the stage for junior Adam Austin, a former walk-on who took most of the snaps this spring. Austin proved a steady performer, and his size means he can stand up better to pass rushers. But it is true frosh Willie Tuitama who evidently has the most promise, for the Wildcat’s staff is leaving the door open for him to possibly be the main signal-caller once he arrives. Tuitama moves well in the pocket, but is no stallion once in the open field. That should say it all for this aerial attack that finished ranked 98th and could only find the endzone ten times. Mobility obviously remains the unit’s Achilles Heel, but why did Kovalcheck lose so many yards if he runs a 4.7-second 40? Austin’s worthy feet and toughness make him Arizona’s best ground option of the three. Combine Kovalcheck’s experiences, Austin’s grit and Tuitama’s potential to make the ideal Wildcat QB - the perfect specimen; but rotating them all to get these qualities whenever each is needed will prove impossible. A starter has to emerge and be given the room to develop into the team leader that this offense so desperately requires.

Running Back
Ominously, this group will still lead the offensive charge. Senior Mike Bell has the size-speed combination needed for success in the Pac Ten. A former (prep) track star, Bell uses his power intelligently, busting through holes just as well as he takes the corner, with soft hands to boot. Classmates Pedro Limon (FB) and Gilbert Harris (TB) are both bigger than Bell, which makes this the conference’s largest backfield, even two-deep. Harris is the fastest back with moves galore, while ex-LB Limon is the team’s bulldozer and has an approach that makes him a genuine/natural leader. Limon, though, gets only a handful of touches – we ostensibly urge coordinator Mike Canales to use his knowledge to expand Limon’s role, for more options/Limon out of the backfield can only freeze more potential tacklers (LBs). Most of the recruits are cut in this same-sized mold, which is good for back- (or down-) field blocking, but bad for tallying big gainers and/or long scores. Keeping legs fresh will again help this unit to reach its potential, but will that be enough to make offensive production “run” with efficiency, or just enough (as it was in ’04) to keep the Wildcats from total stagnation? What was the 93rd-ranked ground attack will keep foes honest. Moreover, these backs shouldn’t be overlooked as deadly weapons when Arizona is inside the “red zone”.

This is an under-developed area due to QB struggles, but the talent is in place to have this unit be one of the conference’s best. Former-track guy Syndric Steptoe (37” vertical leap), a junior, has what is needed to get open early and often runs frantic in the open-field. JUCO-transfer B.J. Vickers will surely make waves when he arrives and fills a starting spot right away. Classmate Mike Jefferson is also well-sized (like Vickers), and this deep threat uses his 4.39 speed well whenever needed. All-around talent Anthony Johnson can easily use his arm just as well as he could take it to the house on a reverse, so watch his presence as a signal for trickery/distraction. It is obvious that this group only needs to have the ball delivered to blossom into the faces of consistency for which many Wildcat fans have waited.

Tight End
This is yet another spot where JUCO help will start right away. Brandyn McCall is more of a receiver than a blocker, but the junior will be the primary for his sheer girth. Brad Wood is really a receiver, but is big enough to (and will) line up in the backfield, too. Ex-LB Ryan Kilpatrick and brutish true freshman Adam Grant (recruited as a tackle) will see playing time in short yardage and/or two-TE situations. With so many role players, this position, like the FBs, needs to be a more vital part of the Wildcat attack.

Offensive Line
Already a marginally strong unit, this line looks even better off now than it did in allowing only 22 sacks. That is because their proven tackles can only get better with the addition of two four-star recruits. Sophomore Peter Graniello is versatile enough to move over if/when highly anticipated junior JUCO-transfer Adam Hawes arrives, and even more qualified tackles assure that the outside will be safe deep into the fourth. Senior C Kili Lefotu is the anchor and leader of the entire crew, with great footwork that allows his sizeable efforts to pay off. Inside, ex-DT John Abramo will use his experience to balance RS frosh Joe Longacre, who is no slouch as he proved by making the transition from tackle to (right) guard rather well in his strong spring showing. Performance levels in Arizona’s running game will improve, and any failures at QB will not likely be attributable to this deep group.

What Arizona was missing in their pathetic attempt at offense (112th in total offense, 116th in scoring) was a field general who could deliver and lead while making all around him play to their potential(s). Kovalcheck didn’t convince anyone in spring ball that he had made the strides needed to get his performance to the (needed) next level, so either Tuitama or Austin seems to be the only answer(s). All of the talent positions are stacked, and the line has made headway in improving itself. It really is very clear that only improvement(s) in QB play can be the catalyst for all areas to improve production. No matter how good the RBs, OC Canales has to keep defenses honest with more (and better distributed, position-wise) passes, for predictability was what caused the Wildcats to convert merely 30% of their third-down attempts. UA needs to quit taking “baby steps” and go for it right away – in scoring only 28 and 34 combined points in the first and second quarters last campaign, respectively, the whole team was “behind the eight ball” right away, with no chance to win in most of their losses. If the QBs struggle, opening the offense up early couldn’t hurt.


WR Syndric Steptoe


Returning Starters in bold
QB Richard Kovalcheck-So (6-2, 211) Adam Austin-Jr (6-3, 213)
FB Pedro Limon-Jr (6-0, 244) Paul Nichols-Jr (6-3, 235)
RB Mike Bell-Sr (6-1, 218) Gilbert Harris-Sr (6-2, 223)
Chris Henry-So (6-0, 220)
WR B.J. Vickers-Jr (6-3, 215) Anthony Johnson-So (6-2, 200)
WR Syndric Steptoe-Jr (5-9, 170) Michael Jefferson-Jr (6-2, 203)
TE Brandyn McCall-Jr (6-5, 250) Brad Wood-Jr (6-3, 220)
OT Peter Graniello-So (6-7, 293) Bill Wacholz-Fr (6-7, 300)
OG John Abramo-Sr (6-4, 294) Dillon Hansen-Fr (6-5, 290)
C Kili Lefotu-Sr (6-5, 315) Erick Levitre-Jr (6-1, 270)
OG Joe Longacre-Fr (6-4, 310) Eddie Rollmann-Fr (6-4, 282)
OT Tanner Bell-Sr (6-8, 300) Brad Brittain-Sr (6-5, 292)
K Nick Folk-Jr (6-2, 206) Adam Goldstein-Fr (5-5, 150)



Defensive Line
Though a decent group of run stuffers (30th in rushing D), a pass rush has to be achieved so that the secondary can have time to improve. Senior ends Marcus Smith and Copeland Bryan are actually better in passing situations than anything (Smith’s eight pass breakups were second-most for any Wildcat), but their 2.5 combined sacks tell you the story here. Proven depth is a concern, but the new class has some real potential to tighten the outside, as does heady reserve Jason Parker. Inside, the arrival of NJCAA all-American Byron Smith has most Wildcat fans sleeping better. Fellow-junior Paul Philipp has starting experience, and is also that heady-type who has eyes in the back of his helmet. Classmate Ricky Parker (no relation) is another JUCO-transfer who will join other reserves to assuredly make the Wildcats tough and “deep” in the trenches.

Senior Randy Sims is the leadership of the corps, and though not a starter in 2004, he proved himself through speed and determination to be an impact player. His strongside efforts make standout sophomore Dane Krogstad able to slide to the weakside. Krogstad, prep champ at discus, shotput and 4x400, will have a breakout year now that the system is fully grasped. All-academic Ronnie Palmer is another quick study who starts as a RS freshman due to ability, not size. Ex-FB Sean Jones and John McKinney (4.6) will give girth as these upperclassmen rotate in for optimal effect. New faces should prove that this unit can finally be relied upon as the glue needed to tie the entire defense together.

Defensive Back
With all four starters still here from the 101st-ranked pass defense, lessons have been learned so that team work will make the group better than its standout component parts. These guys are already strong at tackling and/or run-stopping, but more attention will be paid to making the coverage units more versatile. Antoine Cason (his three forced fumbles and four INTs made him a freshman all-American) has combined with fellow-sophomore Wilrey Fontenot to secure the corners, though size issue with Fontenot (5’9) could easily mean that four-star JUCO-transfer Michael Johnson (6’3) may be forced to displace/compliment speedy Dramayne McElroy (sub-4.3) as a nickel option. Little experience is found in the three-deep, so injuries on the outsides would likely be felt. Much less worry surrounds the safeties. Seniors Lamon Means (strongside) and Darrell Brooks have all-around ability and will continue to bring the wood weekly. These two guys will command this entire 11. Incoming talent abounds in back, so expect the entire back seven to pick up their efforts due to both hard lessons learned and the new blood.

The bottom line here is about the same – the back seven cannot be so caught up in run stopping that it allows opponents to move through the air. The LBs are again the key, for though they are small for this major conference, committing an eighth DB/defender into the box will likely be met with similarly damaging “over the top” results. The DBs can likely be left on their islands if needed, but extended, predictable periods of such would again (no matter how good the DBs are) prove detrimental to consistently stopping ball movement and/or scoring. More pressure put on opposing QBs would reverse many of the team’s ills, so hopefully the Wildcats can avoid 2004’s pitfall of predictably biting on play-action. Only three (of their most talented) foes broke the 30-point barrier – Stoops & Bros. have made sure that this D knows how/when to tighten the reigns. But allowing a 41% third-down conversion rate offsets holding opponents to 3.3 ypc, which means that the younger Stoops has his work cut out so that this 11 can make their already-quality efforts genuinely impacting.


DB Antoine Cason


Returning Starters in bold
DE Marcus Smith-Sr (6-5, 249) Jason Parker-So (6-3, 255)
NT Byron Smith-Jr (6-2, 295) Yaniv Barnett-So (6-3, 285)
DT Paul Philipp-Jr (6-3, 278) Lionel Dotson-So (6-4, 252)
DE Copeland Bryan-Sr (6-4, 240) Johnathan Turner-Fr (6-3, 240)
SLB Randy Sims-Sr (5-11, 225) Sean Jones-Sr (5-11, 230)
MLB Ronnie Palmer-Fr (6-2, 217) Akin Akinniyi-Fr (6-0, 230)
WLB Dane Krogstad-So (6-1, 226) John McKinney-Jr (6-0, 232)
CB Wilrey Fontenot-So (5-9, 170) B.J. Dennard-So (6-1, 175)
CB Antoine Cason-So (6-1, 180) Michael Beach-So (6-0, 181)
Dramayne McElroy-Jr (5-10, 170)
SS Lamon Means-Sr (6-3, 232) Michael Johnson-Jr (6-3, 195)
FS Darrell Brooks-Sr (6-1, 210) Dominic Patrick-So (6-0, 200)
P Danny Baugher-Sr (5-10, 195) ..




Junior Nick Folk’s past efforts will pay the team dividends as he takes hard lesson(s) learned from the Wisconsin game – one in which he missed two chance that would have won the game – to the bank. This all-academic standout has the leg strength to try from past 50, and is big enough to be an asset in coverage when he kicks off. Holding foes to around 20 per KO return should again be attained.

Senior Danny Baugher could have taken his 41+ average to a professional level. But UA needs his ability to consistently force fair catches and pin foes inside the 20 (about half the time). Net results reflected the dilemmas on defense, and developments there should therefore equal better field position as coverages are tightened via hungry DBs/LBs.

Return Game
Steptoe and Dennard will be strong as KRs, with Steptoe as the regular. But it is Mike Bell and Chris Henry who will cause the most change as PRs. UA couldn’t get much action when they forced a punt, and with QBs who will need every inch they can get, the Wildcats cannot afford to again allow foes a whopping 41.2 net average.