NCF Nation: Arizona practice 090820

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

TUCSON, Ariz. -- If the economy is turning the corner, it might be time to start looking for bargains in the stock market. Arizona coach Mike Stoops has a suggestion.

Nic Grigsby, Inc.

"I think he's the most undervalued running back in the nation," Stoops said.

The Pac-10's running back business is flourishing. Five returning backs eclipsed the 1,000-yard benchmark last year.

 
  Christian Petersen/Getty Images
  Arizona running back Nic Grigsby is focusing on keeping hold of the ball.
Of course, you've heard of California's Jahvid Best (He's electric!). And Oregon State's Jacquizz Rodgers (Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year as a true freshman). And Stanford's Toby Gerhart (Power & Speed!). And Oregon's LeGarrette Blount (Power & Speed II!).

Wait. Who's the fifth guy?

That would be Grigsby, whose 5.4 yards per carry was better than Rodgers and equal to Gerhart. His 1,153 yards rushing was more than Blount and Gerhart.

Yet his name mostly draws a blank outside of Tucson.

"We're all underrated at Arizona," Grigsby said.

Ah, but Stoops and Grigsby also know -- and note without bidding -- that there is one important knock on Grigsby.

Grigsby calls it his "fumbling situation." He lost the ball five times last year.

"I know if didn't put the ball on the ground as many times as I did, I would have had 400 more yards and six more touchdowns and I would have been right up there," he said.

He's right.

But fumbling is bad. It's worse than gaining a bunch more yards.

A Grigsby fumble gave UCLA its only touchdown against the Wildcats. A Grigsby fumble got him benched against California (a sideline sulk didn't help either). A Grigsby fumble killed a drive deep into BYU territory in the Las Vegas Bowl.

But here's where the story might change: Grigsby, by all accounts, has worked extremely hard to beat his fumble-itis. And he hasn't put the ball on the ground once this preseason, Stoops said.

"To me, it isn't even in my vocabulary," Grigsby said. "The only thing in my vocabulary now is being humble, being a play-maker, being a good team player and winning."

Stoops lauds Grigsby's competitiveness and intensity and said that rubs off on his teammates. As for as being humble and being a good team player, Grigsby insists he's comfortable sharing the football with the Wildcats other two backs, Keola Antolin and Greg Nwoko, who are both very capable.

"It ate me up at first seeing other guys come in and perform. I was like, 'I could be doing that,'" Grigsby said. "But I'm not worried about that. Coach knows he can count on all of us."

As for as being undervalued, that seems to be the theme throughout Arizona preseason camp. The Wildcats, picked to finish eighth in the Pac-10 preseason media poll, know not much is expected from them.

"We're not worried about anything but proving people wrong," Grigsby said.

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