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Arizona Football: No longer in a corner

Seasoned cornerbacks let UA focus on finer points after difficult 2012 season
2013-08-12T00:00:00Z Arizona Football: No longer in a cornerDaniel Berk Contact reporter Daniel Berk at dberk@azstarnet.com or 573-4330. On Twitter @DSBerk Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Position coaches only get so much time to watch film with their players during a season and fall camp.

That time wasn't always productive last season for Arizona Wildcats cornerbacks coach David Lockwood.

"Last year, we were coaching too much effort," Lockwood said.

Instead of being able to focus on assignments and technique, Lockwood's precious time with his corners was more spent on aspects of the game that shouldn't need to be coached.

That certainly didn't help the UA secondary, which ranked last in the Pac-12, allowing 292.8 passing yards per game and giving up 25 touchdowns through the air.

But one week into fall camp, Lockwood has seen a change with his group.

"This year, we're coaching less effort," the coach said. "We're concentrating on the football side of things instead of telling them to run to the ball. That takes time from other things.

"They understand the little things better; the effort part of it and knowing what's expected of them."

Considering the UA returns three players - Jonathan McKnight, Shaquille Richardson and Derrick Rainey - that combined to start all 13 games at the two cornerback spots last season, it makes sense Lockwood is spending less time on the little things.

Depending on your outlook, it's either a blessing or a curse that the UA returns so much experience from a unit that struggled.

"We don't look at the numbers from last year," Richardson said. "We're just working on improving and I think we have. The secondary's biggest goal right now is working on consistency and eliminating big plays."

Here's a closer look at the corners.

The returning starters

Personnel: McKnight, Richardson and Rainey

The lowdown: McKnight started the first nine games, before giving way to Rainey. Richardson started 11 of the 13 with Rainey starting two at his spot. But, each of the three played in all 13 games. McKnight led the way with three interceptions and Richardson added one. The three combined for 155 total tackles last season.

By the numbers: 12.3: Opponents averaged 12.3 yards per catch last season against the UA, which was the second highest mark in the league behind Colorado.

Quotable: "This year, we have the concept of everything down. We're moving fast and we feel confident on what move we're making and we're confident in everyone knowing their position and where they have to be." - McKnight

The not-so-new addition

Personnel: Richard Morrison

The lowdown: Recruited to the UA as a quarterback and then moved to receiver, Morrison will play his final season in Tucson at corner. The Royse City, Texas, native began the transition to corner during spring drills and it continues to go well. Morrison has been running with the second team during the team portion of fall camp and is a playmaker. Lockwood said he's confident Morrison will be a factor at corner during the season.

By the numbers: 30: Even though they've all come on offense, Morrison has 30 games worth of experience to his credit - one of the reasons Lockwood is having to spend less time coaching effort.

Quotable: "It's still a transition; I'm still learning. The spring was real good for me because I was getting so many reps. I still feel like I'm picking things up, but not like I was in the spring. It's still a transition, but I'm more comfortable." - Morrison

The freshmen

Personnel: Derek Babiash and Devin Holiday

The lowdown: Babiash - ranked as a four-star prospect by the Scout.com recruiting service - was more highly recruited than Holiday coming out of high school. However, Holiday has made a positive impression on his coaches so far and has been running with Morrison on the second team so far. With Lockwood's desire to substitute frequently, both Babiash and Holiday could play as true freshmen.

By the numbers: 25: Babiash was ranked as the 25th best high school corner in the country last year by Scout. Holiday was 20 spots behind at No. 45.

Quotable: "We have a couple of freshmen that we like. That's how you build. You get guys in and get them in the system and develop. We have some numbers at the position. Now it's seeing who will step up." - Lockwood

On StarNet: Follow the Cats on Daniel Berk's blog at: azstarnet.com/berk

Training camp: Day 9

At Fort Huachuca

• Temperature at start: The team didn't practice Sunday. Instead, coach Rich Rodriguez's team ran through an obstacle course at Fort Huachuca with some of the soldiers and then returned to campus for position meetings in the afternoon. The Wildcats will return to the practice field this morning at 8:45.

• Newcomer watch: Defensive lineman Luca Bruno, a true freshman from Oak Park, Calif., has been working with the second-team defense and adds a big body (6-4, 280) to the line. His dad, Frank, played fullback at UCLA for three seasons in the early 1980s and rushed for 810 career yards. Bruno also had offers from Cal and Oregon State, among others.

• The big number: 16: The UA has 16 scheduled practices (including scrimmages) left in fall camp.

Key dates

• Saturday: Scrimmage at Arizona Stadium, 6 p.m., followed by Meet the Team

• Aug. 23: Scrimmage on campus

• Aug. 30 (Friday): Opener at Arizona Stadium vs. NAU, 7 p.m. on Pac-12 Arizona

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