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Originally published August 13, 2011 at 8:03 PM | Page modified August 13, 2011 at 9:15 PM

Third in a series previewing the new Pac-12 era

Arizona has strength at quarterback, receivers

Media picked the Wildcats fourth in the South in the Pac-12's inaugural season, and no doubt coach Mike Stoops will find a way to employ that slight to his best advantage. Fact is, in what is likely to be the lesser of the two divisions, Arizona can't be overlooked.

Seattle Times college football reporter

Wildcats at a glance

Last year: 7-6 (T5th in Pac-10)

Coach: Mike Stoops (8th year, 40-45)

Leading lights: QB Nick Foles, RB Keola Antolin, WR Juron Criner, WR David Douglas, DB Robert Golden.

Worth knowing: S Adam Hall and LB Jake Fischer, both starters, suffered knee injuries in the spring, throwing their season into question.

The schedule: After an opener with Northern Arizona, it's brutal for four weeks, with road games at Oklahoma State and USC sandwiched around home dates with Stanford and Oregon.

Times' Pac-12 tour continues

Today: Arizona

Monday: Arizona St.

Tuesday: UCLA

Wednesday: USC

Thursday: Stanford

Friday: Cal

Saturday: Oregon St.

Sunday: Oregon

quotes I think Foles is a stud. Obviously they crushed us last year without him, so their... Read more

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As you head off to Sunday brunch today, the Arizona Wildcats are just wrapping up four days of their annual camp-within-a-camp at Fort Huachuca, some 70 miles from campus.

It's about football, mostly, but also about interacting with and appreciating servicemen at a U.S. Army installation.

And, as Arizona continues a quest that has yet to be finalized with an appearance in the Rose Bowl, it's one more indication the Wildcats are as apt as not to do things differently.

"It's a great experience to be able to go down and train on a U.S. Army base," said offensive linemen Kyle Quinn. "You stay in the barracks and get a small taste of what their life is like. They're telling us their stories, and we're telling them ours.

"It's a really rewarding experience."

A few months ago, Greg Byrne, the Arizona athletic director, was sending out what he thought was a routine email to boosters in the wake of the mess at Ohio State. It turned into another unconventional move at Arizona that got national notice.

Essentially, Byrne asked his constituents to report to the school any behavior on the part of UA athletes that might look like a violation. Let's turn ourselves in, in other words.

Mike Stoops, the football coach, might have been less than thrilled with the idea, but he expresses support for it, saying, "It was unique. Our players need to know that they really are watched, that we live in kind of a fishbowl."

For his part, the wildly energetic Stoops has been known to be imaginative. Former safety Cam Nelson, a video aide for the program, recalls a player missing a practice — and being punished by standing and watching as his fellow defensive backs did 500 yards of dreaded "up-downs."

Your peers get disciplined, and your punishment is knowing you caused it.

"Those are your brothers," said Nelson, "and all your brothers are mad at you. Now you have to be responsible."

Media picked the Wildcats fourth in the South in the Pac-12's inaugural season, and no doubt Stoops will find a way to employ that slight to his best advantage. Fact is, in what is likely to be the lesser of the two divisions, Arizona can't be overlooked.

In a league of quarterbacks, the Wildcats have one of the good ones in Nick Foles, a career 65 percent passer. And they have an abundance of receivers led by Juron Criner, a first-team all-league choice who caught 82 balls for 1,233 yards last year.

"We have so many wide receivers," says Quinn, "you almost can't count them on two hands."

Says Stoops, "We hope the experience we have at quarterback and receiver will help balance out the inexperience on the offensive line."

The line is completely redone, but clearly the Wildcats feel positive about it.

"These guys are very athletic and talented," says Stoops. "I believe they can be more productive than a year ago."

'Zona lost a pair of valuable pass-rushing defensive ends in Brooks Reed and Ricky Elmore. Stoops thinks his back seven will be the strength of this unit.

The kicking game may depend on the mental resilience of Max Zendejas, who had five placements blocked in 2010, including two PATs that denied a victory against Arizona State.

The schedule is wicked early, much as it was down the stretch a year ago, when Arizona dropped five straight to finish 7-6.

In the offseason, says Quinn, the slide "was in our minds constantly."

You figure, one way or another, Stoops put it there.

Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or bwithers@seattletimes.com

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