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April 6, 2012

Conwell could help add 'physical' mentality to UA defense

Incoming Arizona outside linebacker Dakota Conwell was one of the first new defensive recruits to make his pledge to the Wildcats once Rich Rodriguez had his staff in place back in mid-January.

Since that time the three-star prospect has continued to work in preparation for his move to the next level and the next phase of his football career.

At this point the offseason has been going well for the Pittsburgh (Pa.) Upper St. Clair standout.

"It's been going good," Conwell said. "I've been working out at a gym over here in Pittsburgh that some of the Steeler players work out at, so I've been having some good training."

Some of the Wildcats' 2012 recruits have said there are different parts of the program's training regimen that have been a bit of a surprise, but Conwell said that has not been the case for him.

"I'd say not really, because I've been around a lot of weight rooms and people associated with football," he said. "So I kind of already knew most of it."

Conditioning has been one of the focus areas for the the state of Pennsylvania's 29th-best player, and he expects that to continue once he's able to put on a Wildcat uniform.

"I've been trying to get myself in the best shape possible, so I've been running a lot," Conwell said. "Coach (Tony) Gibson keeps telling me to make sure I'm in shape, but I'm sure when I get to Arizona it's going to be a whole new level because of the heat.

"I'm not going to be running in the 60-degree weather here in Pittsburgh."

Rodriguez has mentioned numerous times this spring that he believes the incoming class will have a chance to compete and push the current players for playing time this fall. For Conwell that's a positive thing to hear, but it also means he has to work that much harder, he said.

"When I hear something like that, I just look at it as it gives myself a really good opportunity to come in and play and compete in camp and the rest is on me to perform," he said. "I was aware that they might need some help from some young guys."

Conwell fits into the Wildcats' "spur" position well and playing in the 3-3-5 defense could be somewhat of an adjustment for the talented linebacker.

"I think it's something that's a lot different than what I'm used to, so it's probably going to be difficult at first," Conwell said. "I just have to take the approach that I'm going to learn something every day and get to know it better."

Getting better every day is something that is crucial this time of year for a signed recruiting class waiting to make its appearance on campus, but it's also a time of more freedom for a recruit such as Conwell. With nobody to watch over them to make sure they're doing what they're supposed to, this is the time of year when it's really up to recruits what they want to force themselves to do.

"It's (self discipline) big because you don't really have anybody breathing down your neck making sure you're doing what you have to," he said. "You kind of just have to push yourself to be the best player you can and make it to workouts four or five times a week to simulate what the players would be doing who are in school."

Conwell, who remains in contact with staff, said that he's excited to start the next phase of his career and life.

"Obviously the football I'm really excited about," Conwell said. "I want to come out there and do the best I possibly can. But being in a completely new environment for me - I'm going to be on the West Coast as opposed to the East Coast - so I just think it's going to be an interesting experience for myself."

There is no doubt that Conwell wants to be one of those freshman who Rodriguez mentioned who pushes the current players for playing time next season, but he knows that won't happen unless he works hard at it. But he believes it could happen.

"It's going to take a lot of hard work at the mental part of the game, because I'm going to have to pick up things really fast," he said. "I'm just going to have to compete as much as I possibly can and every day make it like it's a game situation.

"I think that if I take care of all that then playing time should take care of itself."

Conwell is one of a handful of recruits from the East, and that could lead to a different kind of feel - especially on the defensive side.

"It's hard for me to speak for the type of mentality that Arizona has, because I really don't know the mentality it has about football," he said. "I know that around here in Pittsburgh and western Pennsylvania it's about grind-it-out football and being physical. Most players that come out of here are physical, and I think that we might be able to add a good physical aspect to the team and an East Coast style of play."

Conwell will make a return to Tucson next weekend for the Wildcats' spring game where he hopes to learn a little more about playing his position next season for Jeff Casteel's defensive unit.

Matt MorenoMatt Moreno
GOAZCATS.com Senior Recruiting Editor

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