#38 Arizona Football 2014 Preview

Arizona Wildcats

Overall Rank: #38
#7 Pac-12

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Arizona started off Pac-12 play with losses at Washington and USC. From that point on, the Wildcats were playing catch up in the South division. They never caught up. Coach Rich Rodriguez is now entering year three at Arizona and his stellar recruiting is going to pay off pretty soon. Considering Arizona has gone 8-5 in each of Coach Rodriguez’s first two seasons in Tucson, there is good reason to believe that year three will be even better.

2013 Record: 8-5, 4-5
2013 Bowl: Advocare V100 Bowl vs. Boston College (W 42-19)
Coach: Rich Rodriguez (16-10 at Arizona, 136-94 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Calvin Magee
Defensive Coordinator: Jeff Casteel

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Jared Baker, RB, 127 yards
Passing: None
Receiving: Nate Phillips, WR, 696 yards
Tackles: Scooby Wright, LB, 83; Jared Tevis, S, 83
Sacks: Reggie Gilbert, DT, 4.0
Interceptions: Tra’Mayne Bondurant, LB, 4

Other Key Returnees: S Jourdan Grandon, CB Jonathan McKnight

Key Losses: RB Ka’Deem Carey, QB B.J. Denker, LB Jake Fischer, LB Marquis Flowers, DE Slone Tuihalamaka, DT Tevin Hood

The offense has potential even though quarterback B.J. Denker and running back Ka’Deem Carey need to be replaced. Denker threw for 16 touchdowns and rushed for 13 more, while Carey rushed for 1,885 yards and 19 touchdowns during his junior season before heading off to the NFL early. Obviously those are a couple of big time playmakers to replace, but the rest of the offense is ready to step up. The offensive line returns four starters, anchored by 6-8 tackles Mickey Baucus and Fabbians Ebbele. The line deserves some credit for what Carey has done over the last couple of years and this group could be the best yet. But now they will be paving the way for what will likely turn into a running back by committee situation. The hopes are very high for freshmen Pierre Cormier, Zach Green and Nick Wilson and those are the top three candidates to take the bulk of the carries. One of the best group of receivers in the country will help out the new quarterback. Austin Hill missed the 2013 campaign with an injury, but is ready to build off of his 1,364 receiving yards from his junior season. Cayleb Jones, a big-time recruit who spent just one season at Texas, is another big and talented receiver. Sophomores DaVonte’ Neal and Nate Phillips, who caught 51 passes for 696 yards and seven touchdowns as a freshman, are the speedy options.

Coach Rodriguez has some options under center and will take all the time he can to figure out who gives his team the best chance at winning. Redshirt freshman Anu Solomon is the only player who did not transfer to Arizona. Jesse Scroggins (USC), Connor Brewer (Texas) and Jerrard Randall (LSU) all bring something different to the table. Scroggins is the best natural fit for this offense, while Brewer has the best arm and Randall is the most mobile. It will come down to decision making and accuracy in the end. It seems like somebody will step up, but this could be a long season if the Wildcats never find somebody to lead the offense. The increase of depth on defense may lead to an increase of production on that side of the ball. Players like Jordan Allen, a transfer from LSU, and Jeff Worthy, a junior college transfer who originally signed with Boise State, may provide a much needed pass rusher in the front three. The linebackers are young, led by Scooby Wright who tallied 83 tackles as a freshman, yet Coach Rodriguez can finally put three speedy linebackers on the field. With four of five starters back in the secondary, they should be the strength of the defense. The senior safety trio of Tra’Mayne Bondurant, Jared Tevis and Jourdon Grandon has the talent and experience to lead one of the better pass defenses in the Pac-12.

The Bottom Line:
This will be an interesting year for Arizona. There is a ton of potential, but they have to find a steady quarterback and at least come relatively close to replacing Carey. The schedule does not include Stanford or Oregon State and that certainly could have been worse. Road games at Oregon, Washington State and UCLA will be tough, but this group has the potential to hang around in the Pac-12 South race for if they can beat USC at home on October 11th. If they lose that game, they will likely start conference play 1-2 and have a tough time catching up.

Projected Bowl: Sun Bowl

2013 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 264.9 (11th in nation, 2nd in conference)
Passing Offense: 193.5 (97, 12)
Total Offense: 458.5 (31, 4)
Scoring Offense: 33.5 (36, 6)
Rushing Defense: 167.8 (69, 7)
Pass Defense: 233.2 (70, 5)
Total Defense: 401.1 (62, 8)
Scoring Defense: 24.2 (39, 6)
Turnover Margin: 0.3 (39, 6)
Sacks: 1.85 (77, 9)
Sacks Allowed: 1.31 (23, 2)

Madness 2015 NFL Draft Rankings:
#92 Austin Hill

Madness 2014 Recruit Rankings:
#145 Cameron Denson
#183 Jordan Poland


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