2013 Arizona Preview – Offense

Posted Jul 12, 2013

CollegeFootballNews.com 2013 Preview - Arizona Wildcat Offense

Arizona Wildcats

Preview 2013 - Offense

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What you need to know: The read-option is off and running. In its first year with Rich Rodriguez in charge, the balanced Arizona attack ranked No. 7 in the country in total offense … with another regime's players. Once RichRod gets more of his athletes to Tucson, the Cats will be even tougher to stop. In the short-term, though, the program needs to replace two-thirds of last year's triplets. Junior All-American RB Ka'Deem Carey returns for what will likely be his final season, but QB Matt Scott is a Jacksonville Jaguar and WR Austin Hill has been lost to an ACL injury. Carey is an elite back, but this offense is predicated on the ability to throw as well as run. It's a three-man race to replace Scott, with heralded rookie Anu Solomon set to join senior B.J. Denker and junior Jesse Scroggins, a former USC Trojan, in August. The new go-to guy in the receiving corps is an even more complicated situation. The O-line was an underrated participant in last year's success. The tackles, Mickey Baucus and Fabbians Ebbele, are solid. The ability of veteran guard Chris Putton to succeed Kyle Quinn at center, though, will go a long way toward determining the front wall's final grade.

Returning Leaders
Passing: B.J. Denker
25-37, 259 yds, 3 TDs, 1 INTs
Rushing: Ka'Deem Carey
303 carries, 1,929 yds, 23 TDs
Receiving: Ka'Deem Carey
36 catches, 303 yds, 1 TD

Star of the offense: Junior RB Ka'Deem Carey
Player who has to step up and become a star: Junior QB Jesse Scroggins or senior B.J. Denker
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore WR David Richards
Best pro prospect: Carey
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Carey, 2) Junior LT Mickey Baucus, 3) Junior RT Fabbians Ebbele
Strength of the offense: The running game, tackle, explosive plays, the system
Weakness of the offense: Quarterback, receiver depth, guards, turnovers, passing attack


The Wildcats were fortunate to have had QB Matt Scott at the helm of the offense in Rich Rodriquez's debut last year. But now that Scott is attempting to make the Jacksonville Jaguars roster, Arizona is back to looking for a quarterback to run the read-option. Senior B.J. Denker, a second-year transfer from Cerritos (Calif.) Community College, was sharp in the spring, displaying a firm grasp on the system to go along with the athleticism to run this style of offense. And Denker is the most experienced Cat, starting the Colorado game, and finishing the year 25-of-37 for 259 yards, three touchdowns and a pick. However, there are questions whether the 6-3, 173-pounder can make all of the throws.

Challenging Denker among the veterans is 6-3, 201-pound junior Jesse Scroggins, the one-time four-star USC recruit who also spent time at El Camino (Calif.) College. Scroggins has the biggest arm among the contenders, and probably the best overall skill set, but a nagging toe injury hampered his pursuit of the job in the spring. He'll need to be 100% in order to make a concerted run for the top of the depth chart this summer.

Watch Out For .... RichRod to remain open to the possibility of a rookie starter. Four-star Vegas product Anu Solomon chose a good time to become a Wildcat. He's an experienced leader beginning a career at a program with no incumbent at quarterback. Solomon is just the kind of mature player who's capable of scaling the depth chart in August.
Strength: Run-pass option. The beauty of this system is that it will challenge defenses on the ground through the air. Scott went from journeyman to 33 touchdowns running this attack. Denker and Solomon are quality all-around athletes, while Scroggins has the right arm that attracted offers from some of the Pac-12's most prominent programs.
Weakness: A track record. Scroggins and Denker are JUCO transfers, the latter the only one to play significantly in the Pac-12. Solomon is a rookie, with an awful lot to absorb in his first months on campus. Yeah, Scott got up to speed in a hurry, but the current trio of contending Wildcats has one career start between them and a whole host of hurdles that need to be cleared.
Outlook: Does Rodriguez go with a one-year stopgap for a second-straight season, or can he kick off the Solomon era in Tucson? The ideal situation would be for Scroggins to win the job in the summer, piloting the offense for the next two seasons. We'll see. It promises to be a very tight and entertaining battle, with the winner getting an opportunity to operate one of college football's more prolific offensive attacks.
Rating: 6.5

Running Backs

Rich Rodriguez's zone-read option is a dream for backs, who revel in the wide lanes that result in this version of the coach's spread. Junior Ka'Deem Carey is the latest star to operate out of the attack. No. 25 erupted into superstardom in 2012, an All-American in just his second season on campus. He rushed for a nation's-leading and single-season program-best 1,929 yards and 23 touchdowns on 303 carries. Carey also caught 36 balls for 303 yards and another score, and his 366-yard rushing effort against Colorado smashed a Pac-12 record that had stood for almost three decades. The 5-10, 196-pounder averaged 6.4 yards a carry in large part because he has outstanding vision through the hole, is always churning his legs and is one of the toughest backs in America. Carey has the uncanny knack for bouncing off tacklers for more yards, almost never going down on first contact.

The Wildcats prepared for life without primary backup Daniel Jenkins, but ended up retaining him after all. Jenkins originally opted to transfer to Washington State in a quest for more playing time, but reversed course in May. The 5-9, 196-pound senior is a savvy veteran, with enough darting moves to make defenders miss. His 67 carries in 2012 resulted in 293 yards and two touchdowns. The return of Jenkins is an underrated development for this offense.

Watch Out For .... Carey when the pads aren't on. The star has acted poorly during an offseason marred by three run-ins with the law since January. Carey did participate in the spring, and has been toeing the line of late. But maybe Jenkins stayed put because he figured it was just a matter of time before No. 25 loses his focus again.
Strength: Toughness. Don't be fooled by Carey's frame or his stats. This is no finesse back. He's a powerful and determined runner, often earning additional yards that other backs don't pick up. Carey is the kind of game-changer who can demoralize opponents with his running style and his relentless motor.
Weakness: Depth. Retaining the services of Jenkins was huge for the backfield. Still, the Wildcats need a deeper group of reliable backs this season. Carey absorbs a lot of punishment, and he was dinged up at times in 2012. Plus, with the lure of the NFL dangling out there this fall, it shouldn't surprise anyone if he gets a flighty as the end of his college career approaches.
Outlook: In Carey, Arizona boasts one of America's premier running backs. Now, the program is keeping its fingers crossed that it gets him from start to finish. Carey can be a loose cannon, though there is hope that he'll be on his best behavior as the NFL starts to monitor him with increased scrutiny. Jenkins is a great insurance policy, eating up 5-10 carries a game, while staying sharp in the event that an emergency situation arises.
Rating: 9


Dan Buckner graduated. All-league junior Austin Hill tore his ACL in April. And in June, Tyler Slavin decided to leave the program. Arizona needs a reversal of fortune at wide receiver. A lot will be expected from 6-4, 203-pound David Richards, easily the offense's best option on the outside. The sophomore debuted a year ago by catching 29 throws for 298 yards and three touchdowns. Richards' soft hands should earn him the confidence of the quarterbacks.

After Richards, the Wildcats are extremely thin and inexperienced on the flanks. A pair of redshirt freshmen Floridians, 6-1, 168-pound Clive Georges and 6-3, 190-pound Trey Griffey, the son of Ken Griffey Jr., will have the training wheels yanked off this summer.

The Cats are in slightly better shape in the slots. Senior Terrence Miller, junior Garic Wharton and sophomore Johnny Jackson have all played meaningful snaps for the offense. At 6-4 and 234 pounds, Miller is Arizona's equivalent of a tight end or H-back. He's caught 55 passes for 650 yards and two touchdowns during a productive career, and received a medical redshirt after being limited to four games in 2012. Wharton is a speedy and elusive 5-11, 164-pounder, coming off a career-best 19 catches for 264 yards and two scores last fall. Jackson's career in Tucson began with 25 catches for 187 yards and a touchdown off the bench. He's turned a lot of heads since arriving as a walk-on.

Watch Out For .... the final word on Notre Dame transfer Davonte' Neal. The four-star Irish recruit in 2012 decided to return closer to his Scottsdale home and his young daughter, but will he be eligible in 2013 or 2014? As of the beginning of July, a ruling had not been made, though the Wildcats are hoping the import can immediately help the depth crisis currently facing the receivers.
Strength: Inside receivers. Relatively speaking, the Wildcats are deeper on the inside than they'll be on the outside in 2013. The return of Miller is the key for this group. He possesses the size, strength and experience to turn his additional year of eligibility into his best season with the program.
Weakness: Talent pool. The corps would have been just fine had Hill been around to serve as the anchor, that receiver who receives maximum attention from opposing defenders. Subtracting No. 29 from the unit has left the Wildcats without a true go-to guy, or adequate depth on an offense that typically goes four-wide.
Outlook: Losing QB Matt Scott hurt the passing game. Hill's knee injury may have been a TKO. Arizona will now have a new man behind center and a bunch of young receivers being counted on to perform at higher levels. Richards and Miller are the big men most likely to succeed, but Georges and Griffey have high ceilings, and now an edict to begin reaching them.
Rating: 6.5

Offensive Line

Two starters need to be replaced up front, none bigger than all-star C Kyle Quinn. The Wildcats also have a new O-line coach, veteran Jim Michalczik. Michalczik is banking on ultra-versatile senior Chris Putton to plug the gap at the pivot. While the 6-4, 280-pound native of Germany hasn't played the position in college, he's smart, tough and eager for new challenges. Testament to Putton's flexibility, he started 10 games in 2012, eight at left guard and two at right guard.

The Cats are feeling far more stable at tackle, where both of last year's starters are back. On the left side, 6-8, 305-pound junior Mickey Baucus has started 25 games over the last two seasons. He provided a steadying influence in 2012 for a team that ranked second in the Pac-12 in sacks allowed. Baucus has the long arms needed to pass protect, but has to do a better job of routinely bending at the knees.

Right tackle will once again be manned by junior Fabbians Ebbele, another third-year starter on the outside of the line. The 6-8, 309-pounder has a lot of talent and potential, but lacked consistency a season ago. Now that Ebbele is about to begin the second-half of his Arizona career, the hope is that he'll begin to block like the tackle many feel has a chance to play on Sundays.

The possible relocation of Putton and the graduations of Shane Zink and Trace Biskin have left the Wildcats searching for new answers at guard. The only returner to start a game in 2012 was 6-2, 261-pound sophomore Cayman Bundage, who opened the Colorado game at left guard. Obviously, he's not very big, but he is tough and nasty once the helmet goes on and the game begins. The staff loves the way he plays, helping his chances of being in the opening day lineup.

There'll be plenty of competition for the other guard spot. The coaching staff was impressed by 6-5, 271-pound sophomore Jacob Arzouman before he was lost for the season to a knee injury. At 6-4 and 321 pounds, sophomore Faitele Faafoi has his first letter with the program and road-grader potential in the running game. Eric Bender-Ramsay is the veteran of the contenders, a 6-6, 331-pound behemoth who has played a backup role over the past two seasons.

Watch Out For .... the career direction of Ebbele. While his potential is very high, his sophomore season elicited mixed results. The program is hoping for the kind of year from its right tackle that raises awareness among All-Pac-12 voters and NFL scouts alike.
Strength: System comfort. The Wildcats blocked shockingly well a year ago, their first in an entirely new system. Three key starters are back from a group that ranked second in the Pac-12 in rushing offense and sacks allowed. RB Ka'Deem Carey is outstanding, but he got plenty of help from an underrated ensemble of blockers.
Weakness: The guards. Not only is Arizona likely to be employing a pair of newcomers, but depth on the interior will be a legitimate concern as well. Bundage is feisty, yet could struggle against bigger linemen. And after Bundage, there are far more question marks than answers at the guard position.
Outlook: After surprising last year, the Arizona offensive line is hoping to again soar beyond expectations in 2013. While star power comes at a premium, the unit has shown an ability to excel within the read-option system. The linchpin will be Putton. If he can take the baton from Quinn, and run with it, the Wildcats should be fine versus most opponents on the schedule.
Rating: 7
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- 2013 Arizona Defense | 2013 Arizona Depth Chart