#67 Arizona Football 2017 Preview

Arizona Wildcats
Overall Rank: #67
#11 Pac-12
Arizona suffered through a very difficult 2016 campaign. The Wildcats beat Grambling State and Hawaii early in the season, but were dominated by most Pac-12 opposition. They did not win a conference game until the season finale against Arizona State when they did not even attempt a pass in the second half and completed just three in the first half. That is some decent momentum, but there is still a long way to go to get back where the program wants to be.
2016 Record: 3-9, 1-8
2016 Bowl: None
Coach: Rich Rodriguez (36-29 at Arizona, 111-77 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Calvin Magee, Rod Smith
Defensive Coordinator: Marcel Yates
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Brandon Dawkins, QB, 944 yards
Passing: Brandon Dawkins, QB, 1,345 yards
Receiving: Shun Brown, WR, 521 yards
Tackles: Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles, S, 78
Sacks: DeAndre Miller, LB, 3.0
Interceptions: Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles, S, 2; Dane Cruikshank, CB, 2
Other Key Returnees: RB Zach Green, RB Nick Wilson, S Isaiah Hayes
Key Losses: RB Samajie Grant, WR Nate Phillips, WR Trey Griffey, LB Paul Magloire Jr, LB Michael Barton
Arizona’s offense was painful to watch at times last season. Quarterback Brandon Dawkins did more damage with his legs than he did with his arm. He threw for 1,345 yards and eight touchdowns, while he ran for 944 yards and ten scores. Dawkins will not necessarily be the starter though and sophomore Khalil Tate has an opportunity to earn the starting job. However, Tate is much like Dawkins and can struggle in the passing game. Whoever can be more efficient passing the ball will likely earn the starting job. Whoever it is will join a backfield that has some talent. Besides the quarterback running the ball, Arizona also returns J.J. Taylor, Nick Wilson and Zach Green. Taylor may be the most talented of the bunch. He only played in four games last season due to injury, but rushed for 261 yards on 38 carries. Wilson has struggled with injuries since he rushed for 1,375 yards, but if he can stay healthy, Arizona has another very dangerous rusher. With plenty of experience on the line, Arizona will have a very potent game on the ground. However, without a passing attack, the offense will still struggle.
Arizona changed their defensive scheme last year, but it did not work. They still allowed nearly 470 yards per game. The secondary was mostly the problem, but now the Wildcats actually have some experience in the secondary. Cornerbacks Jace Whittaker and Dane Cruikshank were not strengths in 2016, but at least they have experience now. Safeties Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles and Isaiah Hayes are decent playmakers and the secondary has a lot of potential, depth and experience. The front six has much bigger problems, especially on the line where the lack of size is a huge concern. Justin Belknap and Parker Zellers were at least starters last season, but the size will have to come from less experienced players. At linebacker, the Wildcats will have to rely on DeAndre’ Miller, if he can stay healthy, and a group of younger players. It is possible that three freshmen could start at linebacker.
The Bottom Line:
Even with improvement in the secondary, the defense will still struggle if the front line cannot get consistent pressure on the quarterback. And the offense will be one-dimensional and relatively easy for most teams in the Pac-12 to contain. The Wildcats should be able to win a conference game or two and be more competitive than they were in 2016, but not enough to reach a bowl game.
Projected Bowl: None
2016 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 235.0 (19th in nation, 1st in conference)
Passing Offense: 178.1 (108, 10)
Total Offense: 413.1 (67, 8)
Scoring Offense: 24.8 (100, 12)
Rushing Defense: 194.2 (83, 9)
Pass Defense: 275.2 (117, 11)
Total Defense: 469.3 (115, 9)
Scoring Defense: 38.3 (118, 9)
Turnover Margin: -0.58 (112, 12)
Sacks: 1.83 (86, 9)
Sacks Allowed: 2.33 (85, 9)
Madness 2017 Recruit Rankings:
#181 Nathan Tilford