New Arizona coach has need for speed

TUCSON, Ariz.

(AP) – Mike Stoops wants to speed up everything in the Arizona football program – including the rate of improvement.

"Our speed as a team desperately needs to get better," the first-year Wildcats coach said Monday after returning from a weeklong recruiting trip.

"That may be one area we are behind in, but I think our kids are gaining.

That will be a big determining factor, how we compete against the (Pac-10) conference."

Stoops is on a fast track of his own making – from the time he was hired Nov.

29 to replace the fired John Mackovic, he spoke about winning right away.

On Monday, Stoops said he was happy with how quickly his defense picked up the new 4-3 alignment, noting that the first unit allowed only a few big plays in major scrimmage work that ended March 17.

"I think they understood the system," he said.

"It came easier than I expected."

Arizona finished near the bottom of nearly every major defensive statistical category last season, allowing an average of 36 points and 460 yards a game during a 2-10 season.

So the former Kansas State and Oklahoma defensive coordinator dedicated himself to improved defense throughout the spring workouts.

He said he was still looking for more development from a young secondary, and for the defensive line to improve its pass rush.

Stoops believes he has a serious offensive threat in tailback Mike Bell, who rushed for 920 yards last year as a sophomore.

"He is a tremendous football player," Stoops said.

"We need to do some things to get Mike out in position to make plays.

He is probably our most explosive player.

He can go the distance at any time."