QB Foles returns, but O-line new for Wildcats

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“We’ve just got to teach them how to keep that energy throughout the whole camp and the entire season,” he said.

Junior college transfer David Lopez joins returning senior starters Paul Vassallo and David Earls at linebacker. Vassallo led the team in tackles with 102 last season, 77 of them solo. Up front is a mix with sophomores Justin Washington and Sione Tuihalamaka inside and seniors C.J. Parish and Muhammed Usman at the ends. Parish missed all but two games last season because of a concussion. Washington started nine games as a redshirt freshman and Tuihalamaka had three starts.

“We’re trying to establish a fly-around, knock ‘em out kind of defense,” Vassallo said, “and just try to create more turnovers this year. One thing that we didn’t do last year was take advantage of our opportunities. We have to be better at that this year.”

It took a while, but Stoops has built a winning program. The team went 8-5, 8-5 and 7-6 the last three seasons. The Wildcats haven’t, however, been able to make the leap into the elite teams at the top of what now is the Pac-12.

“We’ve got to understand we’re a play away from winning three different games and winning 10 games last year,” he said, “so the other losses came to top-10 quality teams and we played well for periods of time. I just think it’s a consistency thing, it’s an attitude that we’re not satisfied where we’re at as a program, seven or eight wins. We want to get past that, and that’s where we’ve got to get to as a team.”

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