#15 Arizona Football 2015 Preview

Arizona Wildcats

Overall Rank: #15
#4 Pac-12 Conference

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The Arizona Wildcats broke through under Rich Rodriguez during the 2014 season with another upset win at Oregon, a Pac-12 South Championship and a trip to the Fiesta Bowl. Now, while the last two games did not end in a great note with a blowout loss to Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship game and falling short against Boise State, there is still plenty of reason for optimism as several key players from last year’s ten win season are back looking for more in 2015.

2014 Record: 10-4, 7-2
2014 Bowl: Vizio Fiesta Bowl vs. Boise State L (30-38)
Coach: Rich Rodriguez, 26-14 at Arizona, 146-98-2 overall
Offensive Coordinator: Calvin Magee and Rod Smith
Defensive Coordinator: Jeff Casteel

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Nick Wilson, RB, 1,375 yards
Passing: Anu Solomon, QB, 3,793 yards
Receiving: Cayleb Jones, WR, 1,019 yards
Tackles: Scooby Wright, LB, 163
Sacks: Scooby Wright, LB, 14.0
Interceptions: Two with 2 each

Other Key Returnees: WR Samajie Grant, DE Reggie Gilbert, S Will Parks, CB Cam Denson, K Casey Skowron, P Drew Riggleman

Key Losses: WR Austin Hill, LT Mickey Baucus, S Jared Tevis, S Tra’Mayne Bondurant, FS Jourdon Grandon, CB Jonathan McKnight

There is a trio of offensive players for Arizona that can match up with any team in the country on a given day. Quarterback Anu Solomon took control of the offense as a freshman last season and never looked back. More often than not, he found a way to make key plays on the way to throwing for nearly 3,800 yards. Nick Wilson is back at running back and he has that explosiveness which fits perfectly in a Rich Rodriguez offensive attack. Cayleb Jones has lived up to his five-star recruiting hype he received when he originally went to Texas. Jones caught 73 passes as the go to wide receiver for Solomon and he has the potential to be even better and rack up 90 catches this season. Scooby Wright is back on the defensive side of the ball at linebacker. Wright is a relentless playmaker. He had 163 tackles, 29 for loss, 14 sacks and six forced fumbles. Wright is going to need to put up similar numbers, especially early on in the season until other playmakers step up.

Generating a pass rush from guys not named Scooby Wright is going to be vital this season. Defensive end Reggie Gilbert is back from a medical redshirt last season and will need to find a way to help the defensive line get more pressure on the quarterback. The offensive line is going to have to get better at protecting the quarterback as Solomon was sacked nearly three times per game in 2014. California transfer Freddie Tagaloa came in during the spring and solidified himself at left tackle and should end up as the starter. Depth at running back behind Wilson is also going to be something to keep a close eye on as the season goes along in case of injury.

The Bottom Line:
Playing 12 games in 12 straight weeks will test the depth of Arizona to the limit. UCLA visits Tucson on September 26. With the Bruins breaking in a new quarterback it will be a golden opportunity for the Wildcats to get a big early win and put UCLA behind the eight-ball with an early conference loss. A two game road trip to Washington and USC in late October and early November will be swing games for Arizona in their quest to repeat as Pac-12 South champions. If they can get both of these games, they will head into the Territorial Cup with a chance to repeat as division champions. Overall, the culture of the program of relentlessly competing and wearing teams down is going to keep the Wildcats in the mix of the Pac-12 South race on an annual basis and 2015 will be no exception.

Projected Bowl: Alamo Bowl

2014 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 181.9 (45th in nation, 5th in conference)
Passing Offense: 281.8 (21, 6)
Total Offense: 463.6 (25, 5)
Scoring Offense: 34.5(28, 5)
Rushing Defense: 169.8 (69, 11)
Pass Defense: 281.2 (118, 9)
Total Defense: 451.0 (103, 10)
Scoring Defense: 28.2 (78, 8)
Turnover Margin: 0.57 (26, 5)
Sacks: 2.71 (26, 5)
Sacks Allowed: 2.86 (105, 8)

Madness 2016 NFL Draft Rankings:
#23 Scooby Wright


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