As the summer heats up, so does our anticipation of the college football season. Contininuing Rant Sports’ ‘100 in 100’ series, we take a look at our No. 72 ranked team, the Arizona Wildcats.
Last season was a year that the Wildcat fans probably hope they will soon forget, but on the other hand, perhaps it could mark a the beginning of a new era for programl. A 1-5 record to start the season last fall led to the dismissal of then head-coach Mike Stoops. Defensive coordinator Tim Kish stepped in as the interim head coach to finish out the year, but the Wildcats would end with a disappointing 4-8 record (2-7 in Pac 12 play).
In December,Rich Rodriguez was hired on as the Wildcats’ new head-coach. The biggest question for Arizona this season is how well Rodriguez will fare his first year in the desert. Will the Wildcats be able to make the transition from a pass-heavy offense into the no-huddle, spread-zone-read offense that Rodriguez ran with the West Virginia Mountaineers and the Michigan Wolverines?
With 2 of the 3 back-up quarterbacks Tom Savage and Daxx Garman both electing to transfer last fall and with starting quarterback Nick Foles having graduated, fifth-year senior Matt Scott was the only scholarship quarterback on the roster heading into the spring.
Heading into the season, it appears Scott, fresh off a red-shirt season, will lead the new offense . In his 3 seasons with Arizona, he has appeared in 18 games, specializing as a running quarterback. In those 18 games, he posted 632 rushing yards and 2 rushing touchdowns. Scott should be the perfect fit for Rodriguez’s zone-read offense, but with the lack of depth behind him, the Wildcats’ season hinges on his staying healthy.
Sophomore Ka’Deem Carey will take over the primary rushing duties. Last season, as a back-up, he ran 91 times for 425 yards and 6 touchdowns. Carey will also be running behind an experienced offensive line which returns all 5 starters from last season. As a result, he should have a break-out sophomore year, especially in the new, run-oriented offense.
Dan Buckner is Arizona’s lead receiver heading into the season. Last year, Buckner caught 42 passes for 606 yards and two touchdowns.
New Wildcat defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel will have his hands full this season. Last year, due primarily to injuries to key defensive players, the Wildcats’ defense was among the worst in a Pac 12 conference known for terrible defense.
This season, several of those missing defensive players are expected to return, including safety Adam Hall, CB Johnathan McKnight, LB Jake Fischer, and DT Willie Mobley.
The Wildcats open the season at home vs. Toledo, which isn’t a game for them to overlook. The Wildcats will then face the still-dangerous Oklahoma State Cowboys the following weekend in Arizona.
Their first road game will be a difficult one as they travel to Eugene to take on the preseason top 10 Oregon Ducks.
They will travel to Palo Alto the first week in October to face another preseason top 15 team, the Stanford Cardinal but get to play the preseason No. 1 USC Trojans at home later in the month.
All in all, it’s difficult to say how the Wildcats will fare this season. It all depends on their ability to adapt to a new offensive system, which has the ability and personnel do extremely well in the Pac 12, but their defense must improve tremendously from last season.
Special thanks to Tyler Brett who also contributed to this article.