FORT HUACHUCA - The Engagement Skills Weapon Simulator 2000 trains soldiers for battle, testing their reaction times and composure in hostile situations.
Nick Foles aced the simulator when the Arizona Wildcats visited Fort Huachuca for training camp a year ago.
As for his own pressure test, well, the quarterback got an incomplete.
Foles was tagged for the first time with a nagging - and inaccurate - label when the Wildcats visited the old Army installation a year ago.
Coaches described the quarterback as a game-day star but an underwhelming practice player. He shined when the lights were on, they said, but often struggled with basic drills.
Foles was aware of his reputation at the time.
A year later, he still can't believe it.
"When you hear something like that, you can take it one of two ways," he said. "It's made me want to become a better player."
Foles will return to Fort Huachuca today as a better practice player than he was a year ago.
First-year assistant Frank Scelfo has helped fix the quarterback's technical flaws, allowing him to make throws he otherwise missed. Foles is admittedly more comfortable in the UA's system heading into his junior year, and more relaxed with last year's quarterback battle behind him.
Here are three reasons why Foles is practicing better:
• Better footwork. Scelfo's first task upon being hired in February was to fix Foles' footwork and balance problems.
The Cats' quarterback has since learned to square his shoulders when he drops back to pass. He keeps his feet underneath him when he sets up to throw and is doing a better job of shifting his weight when he releases the ball.
The improved footwork and better balance have allowed Foles to complete passes he frequently missed a year ago. The drills are becoming a part of his daily routine.
"Peyton Manning works at it every day," Foles said. "That's something you can never be too good at."
• A better grasp. Scelfo said Foles is starting to understand the "why" behind each of his plays, a byproduct of hours spent in the weight room and throwing with his receivers.
Scelfo calls Foles, arguably the team's most inquisitive player, "a gym rat."
"He's understanding better what he's seeing defensively, and the stuff he sees, he's able to process better," Scelfo said. "Instead of just throwing it somewhere, he's starting to process information that we're giving him. His decision-making has really improved from where he was in the spring to where it is now."
• An easy feeling. Foles admitted to being nervous during most of last year's training camp, a main reason why, he says, the he-can't-practice label stuck. The quarterback often stressed and pressed in practices, certain that his last mistake had cost him the starting job.
Games were easier, he said. Confident that he wouldn't be pulled following a bad play or a sloppy drive, Foles relaxed and began to play with better "feel."
Foles is trying to make practices feel like game day.
"It's a fun game. When you're having fun out there, you're going to execute and have fun," he said. "Look at Brett Favre - he can throw four picks and still win a game. It's because he's having fun. I'm with my teammates, playing a game. It should be fun."
Scelfo said it's the right attitude to have.
"I haven't experienced him in a game yet," Scelfo said, "but he's a whole lot better there than he is now. He'll be very good."
On StarNet: Follow the Arizona Wildcats during camp on reporter Ryan Finley's blog at: go.azstarnet.com/finley
UA AT THE FORT
Practices at Fort Huachuca and in Sierra Vista are open to the public.
• Today: 7:30-9:30 a.m., 6:15-8:15 p.m.
• Friday: 8-10 a.m.
• Saturday: 8:30-10:30 a.m., 4:30 p.m. scrimmage at Sierra Vista Buena High School