I have the Arizona Wildcats ranked at #25 on my early list, but it may be a bit of a stretch. The Wildcats were rolling along last season and then lost 3 out of their last 5. However, They did destroy a good Oregon team and they beat a decent Boston College team soundly in their bowl game.
One thing I am not liking about Arizona this high is that they lost their QB and their top RB. They do have some good candidates for the QB position, but RB Ka’Deem Carey will be tough to replace.
Rich Rodriguez may have his work cut out for him picking his next QB. BJ Denker was the only QB to throw a single pass last year. Probably, if Denker had been injured last season, junior Jessie Scroggins (6-3,210) would have been the top back up. Scroggins transferred from El Camino College where he showed a big time arm and good athletic ability. He did not have a chance to show that arm in game playing time a year ago, but he should be right in the mix of potential replacements.
Redshirt freshman Javelle Allen (6-3,220) is a big strong kid from Texas that has his eyes on the starting job as well. Nick Isham (6-0,190) actually has playing experience when he threw for 1400 yards back in 2011. But, he threw for 1400 yards at Louisiana
Tech. He was the team’s holder last season on special teams.
Texas transfer Connor Brewer (6-2,205) could be in the mix, but I am not convinced he is the type of athlete to run this offense.
Jarrett Soloman (6-1,190) a former 3 star from perennial state powerhouse Las Vegas Bishop Gorman also redshirted a year ago and he could be a good prospect for this job. He appears to be the type of QB that fits this offense perfectly. He has the arm and the athletic ability to make this offense work.
Khari McGee (6-1,190) is yet another redshirt freshman in the mix.
As if things weren’t crowded enough, 4 star California incoming freshman Brandon Dawkins (6-4,200) is an outstanding prospect. Then, there’s 3 star JC recruit Jerrard Randall (6-1,190) who is a tremendous athlete from Florida.
Coach Rod has his work cut out for him. 8 guys battling for 1 spot, and it’s going to be an interesting spring for Arizona offensive coaching staff. Look for several of those guys to transfer out.
Carey was a great RB for the Wildcats and ran for over 1800 yards a year ago and talents like that aren’t easy to replace. To top it off, they lost their seond team RB as well, Daniel Jenkins.
Third team RB Jared Baker (5-8,190) a junior from Los Angeles had 127 yards rushing in 2013. Pierre Cormier (5-9,180), Zachery Green (5-9,200) both redshirted a year ago. Nick Wilson (6-0,190), Jonathon (5-8,185) are two 4 star freshmen that look really good. Hard to depend on 4 freshmen, but Baker is unproven at this point.
The Wildcats have a lot of bodies but not much experience at QB and RB. I am gambling that some of these guy will come through for them. They have 4 light games before they meet Oregon and then USC, Washington State and UCLA. At that point, I will know if I made the right bet. They end the season against rival ASU and I am predicting an 8-4 regular season record for the Wildcats.
Good news at receiver is that the top guy was a freshman a year ago and he is back. Nate Phillips (5-7,170) is small bur very quick and shifty. He had 51 receptions last year. Samajie Grant (5-9,170) is another smallish receiver that hauled in 47 passes last season. Garic Wharton (5-11,165) is yet another small receiver back for another year and throw in Johnny Jackson (5-10,175). These two mini mights combined for 29 receptions.
Trey Griffey (6-3,190) is the son and grandson of the famous baseball Griffeys and like his father and grandfather, he is quite the athlete. He looked really good in the bowl game against Boston College. Griffey missed a lot of playing time due to injury but he should have a big year for the Wildcats in 2014.
David Richards (6-4,205) is a big receiver coming back with 15 catches.
The Wildcats have issues at TE. Josh Kern (6-5,210) is a redshirt freshman and hopefully fills out in the off season. Gerhard De Beer (6-7,250) at least has the size, but is also a redshirt with no game experience. Trevor Wood (6-6,240) is a freshman from Scottsdale.
Offensive line is in good shape with 4 starters returning. Mickey Baucus (6-8,305) and Fabbians Ebbele (6-8,310) return at the tackle positions, and they are a couple of hulking giants from the midwest. Undersized Caymon Bundage (6-2,260) returns at one guard position. You’d think he’s be a liability in the run game but he is super quick and aggressive and holds his own against bigger players.
The open guard spot should go to either Faitele Faafoi (6-4,320) or Zach Hemmila (6-3,320). Offensive line should be a team strength in 2014 and with 8 prospects to choose from at QB, the Wildcats should find a combination that works.
Arizona runs a 3-3-5 defense and returns 6 starters.
Even in a 3-3-5 it still starts up front. Reggie Gilbert (6-4,265) is back at his DE spot and registered 4 sacks a year ago.
The rest of the Defensive line will be all new starters. Dan Pettinato (6-4,265) played some at the other end and Kirifi Taula (6-4,280) played at nose guard. Dwight Melvin (6-1,275) also played a little at the nose. Jeff Worthy (6-3,290) is a JC transfer that should help out immediately.
Jack Banda (6-3,230) could play at DE but may need more time to bulk up. Luca Bruno was recruited as an OL but played some on the defensive side. Kyle Kelley (6-3,250) played some as a freshman and will provide depth which is needed badly.
Rich Rodriguez needs to recruit some defensive linemen and soon.
Scooby Wright (6-1,235) returns for his sophomore year at SLB after finishing 4th on the team in tackles last season. If nothing else, he is a prospect for my all name team. Derrick Turituri (6-1,250) played a lot last season as a freshman as well and should move over to one of the vacant spots. Frank Hobson (6-3,235) was the primary back up last season at MLB and should move up to start.
Sir Thomas Jackson (6-0,205) another Wildcat candidate for my all name team, could help at the WLB spot. Keoni Bush-Loo (6-4,225) is also back and contributed last season. DeAndrew Miller (6-3,220) is a sophomore that played and looks promising. Jamardre Cobb (6-0,220) is an incoming 4 star recruit that could see playing time right away. Throw in JC recruit Antonio Smothers (6-2,240) who should challenge for starting duty in the middle right away.
The Wildcats play 5 defensive backs and 4 of them were juniors a year ago. This should be one of the team strengths going into this season.
Only loss is at one corner spot and Devin Holiday (5-11,170) is a good sophomore that played a lot as a freshman and should step right in. Jonathon McKnight (5-11,170) returns at the other corner. Tra’Mayne Bondurant (5-10,190) was the rover back or the Spur back last season and he led the team in interceptions with 4, plus was 6th on the team in tackles.
Free Safety Jourdan Grandon (6-0,190) returns for his senior year after being among the top tacklers and the other safety is Jared Tevis (5-10-195). The Wildcats are pretty deep in the secondary.
Arizona will have a hard time beating in state rival Arizona State, USC, and Oregon again. But, they have a solid Offensive Line returning and some other players on both sides of the ball and they should be slightly better this season. Michigan fans hate Coach Rodriguez but he killed it at West Virginia and he should do the same at Arizona given time.