2008 CFN Arizona Wildcat Preview
Arizona QB Willie Tuitama
Arizona QB Willie Tuitama
Posted Apr 11, 2008

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.

Arizona Wildcats

Preview 200

By Richard Cirminiello  

- 2008 CFN Arizona Preview | 2008 Arizona Offense
- 2008 Arizona Defense
| 2008 Arizona Depth Chart
- 2007 Arizona Preview
| 2006 CFN Arizona Preview 

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Preview Arizona's Sept. 6 Opponent
2008 CFN Toledo Preview

Head coach: Mike Stoops
5th year: 17-31
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 16, Def. 21, ST 2
Lettermen Lost: 17
Ten 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.

2008 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2008 Record: 0-0

Aug. 30 Idaho
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. 8 at Washington State
Nov. 15 at Oregon
Nov. 22 Oregon State
Dec. 6 Arizona State

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2007 Record:

Sept. 1 at BYU L 20-7
Sept. 8 No Arizona W 45-24
Sept. 15 New Mexico L 29-27
Sept. 22 at California L 45-27
Sept. 29 Wash St W 48-30
Oct. 6 at Oregon St L 31-16
Oct. 13 at USC L 20-13
Oct. 20
Stanford L 21-20
Oct. 27 at Wash. W 48-41
Nov. 3 UCLA W 34-27
Nov. 15
Oregon W 34-24
Dec 1 at 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 year.  

What to watch for on defense: 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 Schedule:  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 routes.   

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.                   

Key game
: 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.

2007 Fun Stats: 
- 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



Related Stories
2008 Arizona Preview - Offense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Apr 11, 2008
2008 Arizona Preview - Defense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Apr 11, 2008
2008 Arizona Preview – Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Apr 11, 2008

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