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August 20, 2013
From the start of practice Tuesday morning at Kindall/Sancet Stadium, it was clear head coach Rich Rodriguez and his staff was out to prove some sort of point.
Prior to the team stretch and start of practice, Rodriguez gave the offense an earful. Even during the stretching, typically the least intense portion of practice, the coaches had a little extra to say.
"Time to wake up!" receivers Tony Dews said, walking through each line.
As it turned out, it was all part of Rodriguez's plan, which included canceling the second practice later this evening. The Wildcats will instead have an extended walkthrough and start to game plan for next Friday's season opener against Northern Arizona.
But, by design, the players were kept out of the loop.
"We had to get on them early to get them cranked up," Rodriguez said after the two-hour session. "After we got going, the intensity was better after we got to about the sixth or seventh period.
"I was probably going to get on them no matter what happened early, just to get the juices flowing. I had an idea that we weren't going to practice tonight. They didn't know that because it was on the schedule."
TE Cooper leaves team
Already dangerously thin at tight end, the Wildcats have now lost their projected starter.
Rodriguez confirmed that 6-5, 246-pound junior Michael Cooper is "exploring his options" and is no longer on the team.
"He may stay in school here and not play football," Rodriguez said, "or, he may transfer somewhere else.
"He's a great young man, good student, and whatever he wants to do we're going to support him and wish him the best."
Prior to fall camp, the plan was for Terrence Miller to move over from receiver and play tight end. But injuries to Austin Hill and David Richards, as well as the departure of Tyler Slavin, kept Miller at his outside receiver position.
The remaining options on the roster include redshirt freshman Josh Kern, who switched over from quarterback in the spring, and true freshman Nolan Heyer, who was brought back after not initially opening camp with the 'Cats.
Cooper, a backup last season, appeared in 12 games but played primarily on special teams. He did the same in 2011.
Rodriguez said Richards is "right on track" with his recovery from a second operation on the same foot he broke prior to spring camp. The 6-4 receiver's status for the opener is "doubtful" as he remains on crutches.
"We're hoping that he can start running around here next week, or the week after," Rodriguez said.
Also, offensive tackle Mickey Baucus was held out of practice with a sore ankle, Rodriguez said. In his place, Chris Putton moved over from guard and Eric Bender-Ramsay filled Putton's spot along the first-team line.