When Arizona Wildcats quarterback Nick Foles was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles after the 2012 season, the ‘Cats knew fifth-year senior Matt Scott was waiting in the wings to take his spot. Scott is now with the Jacksonville Jaguars, but this time, there’s no shoo-in to replace him as the Arizona starting quarterback.
Senior B.J. Denker, a transfer from Cerritos College who served as Scott’s backup last season, has the best shot at the job. He’s the one with the best grasp of the offense and he has some experience, even getting the start against Colorado last year when Scott was recovering from a concussion.
Jesse Scroggins, a USC transfer by way of El Camino Junior College, is also “in the mix,” according to Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez. It’s tough to say just how in the mix he is because Scroggins missed nearly all of spring practices after offseason toe surgery. His first live action as a Wildcat was in the spring game — when he threw an interception on his first pass — but he could challenge for the job if he gets healthy and picks up the offense over the summer.
Louisiana Tech transfer Nick Isham started the first seven games of his true freshman season for the Bulldogs under then-coach Sonny Dykes, who had previously been the offensive coordinator at Arizona. At the time he enrolled at UA, the SBNation’s Arizona Desert Storm blog noted that while Isham had not been a great fit for Dykes’ offense, he had been a standout in high school, in an offense similar to Rodriguez’s. Isham did not participate in the final spring workouts and scrimmage because of a shoulder injury, so he’ll have a lot of work to do to catch up and become a factor when fall camp opens.
The other potential ‘Cats QBs are RichRod recruits: redshirt freshman Javelle Allen and incoming freshman Anu Solomon.
After Allen signed with Arizona, the Tucson Citizen said he may be one of the steals of the 2013 recruiting class, a three-star with mediocre numbers as a junior who exploded in a new spread offense as a senior. He took a good number of snaps this spring and could make a push in fall, like ASU‘s dark-horse turned starter Taylor Kelly did in 2012.
Solomon may stand a better chance of coming in and playing as a true freshman. Number one on SI.com’s list of “2013 QB recruits who can make an instant impact,” Solomon doesn’t have an established starter as a roadblock in front of him. A four-year starter at Bishop Gorman high school in Las Vegas, he helped the Gaels win four state championships, passing for more than 10,000 yards and throwing 138 touchdowns and just 17 interceptions in his stellar high school career.
Like many true freshmen, he’ll have a significant learning curve adjusting to college ball, but if he can master it, Solomon’s as likely to start this season as any other quarterback on the roster.
As it stands now, it’s officially a wide open race, but Denker has a slight edge. Rodriguez admitted the senior is significantly ahead of the rest of the field in terms of understanding the offense and mastering the playbook, but the coach is also aware of how much can happen between spring workouts and week one.
Denker took most of the first team reps during spring ball and said he felt confident, but keep in mind, Scroggins was out and Solomon is still finishing his senior year of high school.
Even with the added competition come fall, the senior is looking forward to fighting for — and, hopefully, winning — the chance to be Arizona’s next quarterback.
“Competition makes you a better player. It makes the team better. I’m fine with it being open and I don’t want him to give me the job. I want to earn it,” Denker said.