2008 CFN Arizona Wildcat Preview
Arizona QB Willie Tuitama
Is this finally the year Arizona makes the turn and becomes a Pac 10 player? The defense might could struggle, but Willie Tuitama and the offense should explode. Check out the CFN Arizona preview along with preview for the Sept. 6 opponent, Toledo, in what should be one of the year's best shootouts.
2008 CFN Arizona Preview |
2007 Arizona Preview |
2006 CFN Arizona
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Preview Arizona's Sept. 6 Opponent
CFN Toledo Preview
Head coach: Mike Stoops
5th year: 17-31
Off. 16, Def. 21, ST 2
Lettermen Lost: 17
Best Wildcat Players
1. WR Mike Thomas, Sr.
2. OT Eben Britton, Jr.
3. QB Willie Tuitama, Sr.
4. TE Rob Gronkowski, Soph.
5. LB Ronnie Palmer, Sr.
6. P Keenyn Crier, Soph.
7. RB Nic Grigsby, Soph.
8. FS Nate Ness, Sr.
9. SS Cam Nelson, Jr.
10. PK Jason Bondzio, Sr.
CFN Prediction: 7-5
2008 Record: 0-0
Sept. 6 Toledo
Sept. 13 at New Mexico
Sept. 20 at UCLA
Sept. 27 OPEN DATE
Oct. 4 Washington
Oct. 11 at Stanford
Oct. 18 California
Oct. 25 USC
Nov. 1 OPEN DATE
Nov. 8 at Washington State
Nov. 15 at Oregon
Nov. 22 Oregon State
Nov. 29 OPEN DATE
Dec. 6 Arizona State
at California L 45-27
Wash St W 48-30
at Oregon St L 31-16
USC L 20-13
Wash. W 48-41
Arizona St L 20-17
(2006) Is this the year that Arizona finally turns the corner and begins
reversing a decade’s worth of mediocrity?
(2007) Is this the year that Arizona finally turns the corner and begins
reversing a decade’s worth of mediocrity?
(2008) No, really, is this the year that Arizona finally turns the
corner and begins reversing a decade’s worth of mediocrity?
Ever since Mike Stoops’ ballyhooed arrival from Oklahoma in 2003,
Wildcat fans have patiently waited for tangible signs of progress, such
as a postseason game.
They’re still waiting.
The program has been close the last two seasons but hasn’t been able to
put out a complete product on the field. Before last year, for
instance, the defense was crammed with returning starters, while a
sketchy offense was adapting to Sonny Dykes’ wide-open passing attack.
This year the roles have been completely reversed with an improving
offense welcoming back QB Willie Tuitama and most of his supporting
cast, while the defense must be rebuilt from scratch with eight new
starters and no bona fide stars.
While the offense is
good enough to score plenty of points, it might not matter if the
defense is a weekly adventure.
There’s a palpable sense of urgency around Tucson that’s engulfing the
program. Stoops needs to break through soon because 17-29 with no bowl
invitations over the last four seasons isn't exactly getting it done.
If this isn't the year Arizona finally turns the corner and begins
reversing a decade's worth of mediocrity, another coach will likely get
a shot at changing things up next season.
What to watch for on offense: Tuitama to blow up in the offense.
He has the experience, he has the receivers, and he has the coaching.
It's all there for him to finally live up to his immense promise and
potential and come up with the type of season everyone's been waiting
for. However, he has to stay healthy and he has to be consistent. He's
been around way too long to not become a difference maker after years of
seemingly being on the verge of big things. If everything clicks just
right, he could be the Pac 10 breakthrough/breakout player of the
What to watch for on
Plenty of young players seeing plenty of key playing time early on.
While that's almost by default because of all the new starters, several
fresh faces will have to play big from day one, especially if injuries
strike. There are only five players with more than one start under their
belts, and only two projected backups have a game of starting
experience. It'll be trial by fire with several mistakes needing to be
tolerated. The team gets one game against Idaho before needing to be
jelled. Toledo's offense could make things nasty on September 6th.
The team will be far better if … the new starters on defense
don’t perform like new starters. It’s asking a lot, but it could be the
difference between a five-win season and a seven-win season. The
Wildcats were ravaged by graduation, putting
pressure on the likes of DE Johnathan Turner, DT Earl Mitchell, and FS
Nate Ness to morph into new defensive stalwarts. With the offense
expected to produce fireworks, Arizona becomes very dangerous if the
defense can exceed expectations.
The Wildcats go through a steady early progression of non-conference
games, starting out with a layup against Idaho before getting Toledo in
what should be a high-octane shootout before going to New Mexico, and
then comes the Pac 10 slate with a trip to UCLA. Sandwiched between two
off weeks is a key stretch of three home games in four weeks hosting
Washington, Cal and USC and going on the road to face Stanford. While
there's a trip to Oregon to deal with, the overall road slate isn't all
that bad and there's a nice off-week between home games against Oregon
State and Arizona State.
Best offensive player:
WR Mike Thomas. Don’t be fooled by an unimposing 5-8 and 195 pound
stature, Thomas plays much bigger, which Pac-10 defensive backs have
learned over the last three years. A model of consistency, he has
caught at least 50 passes each season, topped by 83 for 1,038 yards and
11 touchdowns. In the slot for the first time this fall, he’s liable to
establish career highs as Willie Tuitama preferred target on underneath
2007 Fun Stats:
Best defensive player: LB Ronnie Palmer. A fourth-year starter
for the Wildcats, Palmer has been a perennial rock in run defense.
While he doesn’t have an enormous ceiling, he’s also the most consistent
performer on the rebuilt Arizona D, racking up a career-high 83 tackles
as a junior. Beyond his physical ability, the program is also counting
on Palmer to be one of this season’s emotional leaders.
Key players to a successful season: The defensive line. All four
starters from a year ago have left Tucson, leaving the Wildcats with a
gaping hole on the first line of defense. If linemen, such as Turner,
Mitchell, and Ricky Elmore, can’t produce results, the losses of LB
Spencer Larsen and CB Antoine Cason to the NFL are going to amplified
throughout the season. New cornerbacks Devin Ross and Marquis Hundley
are going to need support, especially in the form of a feisty pass rush.
The season will be a success if ... Arizona plays a 13th
game. Anything less would be a major disappointment for a school that’s
had a bowl-or-bust mantra since Stoops first accepted the head job. The
early season schedule is conducive to a fast start, but with Cal, USC,
Oregon, and Arizona State looming in the second half, the Wildcats must
hold serve in the games they’re supposed to win.
Nov. 22 vs. Oregon State. The ‘Cats have had little success of late
against the Beavers, losing eight of the last nine, but a reversal of
that trend might be needed to lock up a bowl bid. This could be the
game that gives Arizona its magical win No. 7, and with rival Arizona
State in the on-deck circle, it might want to seal the deal before the
regular season finale.
- Rushing touchdowns: Opponents 19 - Arizona 7
- 3rd down conversions: Opponents 86 for 199 (43%) -
Arizona 62 for 177 (35%)
- Penalties: Opponents 89 for 759 yards - Arizona 74 for 636 yards