The Arizona Wildcats were fortunate enough to have the services of one of the best running backs in the nation over the last two seasons as Ka’Deem Carey consistently paced the Arizona offense with his ability to churn out yardage on the ground. With Carey’s decision to leave school early for the 2014 NFL Draft, however, Rich Rodriguez is not going to be able to rely on the phenomenal running back any longer. That puts Arizona in a bind as they appear short on playmakers heading into the 2014 season.
Carey leaves Arizona after an illustrious, albeit short, career. He leaves school with at least a piece of 26 school records, including the single-game rushing record (366 vs Colorado Buffaloes in 2012) and the single-season rushing record (1,929 yards in 2012), and will finish his collegiate run as the school’s all-time leading rusher with 4,232 yards (No. 7 in Pac-12 history). He is a two-time consensus All-American since Rodriguez arrived in Tucson and was named the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year in 2013 after gaining 1,885 yards of offense with 19 touchdowns and averaging 157.1 yards per game. He rushed for over 100 yards in every game he played this season and has a 16-game streak of 100-yard rushing efforts, the longest active streak in FBS.
That would be big shoes to fill for anyone, but it gets even tougher for Arizona when you consider the other pieces that they will be missing in 2014. Both quarterback B.J. Denker and backup running back Daniel Jenkins will be gone after their 2013 senior seasons, meaning that Arizona will be without their top three rushers next season and their starting quarterback who had started to find his rhythm in the passing game. In all, Arizona will lose 94.7 percent of their rushing yard production in 2014 and 94.4 percent of their rushing touchdowns.
Next up for Arizona in the backfield is Jared Baker, who saw limited action as a sophomore this season rushing 27 times for 127 yards in 10 games. Their best bet will likely be to use more of a pass-oriented attack next season thanks to the young freshmen core of receivers that got pushed into action this season, led by Nate Phillips and his 51 catches for 696 yards and seven touchdowns in 2013. The group will only be further bolstered by the return of Austin Hill who was lost to an ACL injury for the entire 2013 season after a breakout sophomore year in 2012 when he led the team with 81 receptions for 1,364 yards and 11 touchdowns.
The challenge for the Cats will be finding a quarterback to take advantage of that receiving talent. The only quarterback other than Denker to attempt a pass this season was freshman Javelle Allen (0-for-1) so there isn’t anyone coming in next fall who has an edge with experience. Former Texas Longhorns transfer Connor Brewer will be eligible to play next fall where he will compete with Allen, Anu Solomon, and Jesse Scroggins most likely to see who takes over the huddle in 2014. It should be one of the more interesting depth chart battles to watch in the Pac-12 and could determine how good Arizona looks on offense next fall.