Arizona spring wrap

May, 14, 2012
5/14/12
11:30
AM ET
2011 overall record: 4-8
2011 conference record: 2-7 (T 5th, South)
Returning starters: offense: 6; defense: 6; kicker/punter: 1

Top returners
QB Matt Scott, RB Ka'Deem Carey, WR Dan Buckner, C Kyle Quinn, DB Tra'Mayne Bondurant, LB Jake Fischer, CB Jonathan McKnight

Key Losses
QB Nick Foles, WR Juron Criner, CB Trevin Wade, LB Paul Vassallo

2011 statistical leaders (*returner)

Rushing: Keola Antolin (609 yards)
Passing: Nick Foles (4,329 yards)
Receiving: Juron Criner (956 yards)
Tackles: Derek Earls (74)
Sacks: C.J. Parrish (3)
Interceptions: Shaq Richardson* (4)

Spring answers

1. Beam me up Scott-y Before spring practices began, it seemed like senior quarterback Matt Scott would be a nice match for Rich Rodriguez's spread-option offense. That was confirmed this spring, and Scott might be the best pure passer Rodriguez has had, at least since Shaun King at Tulane in 1998. The only question is the running game. Though Scott is a good athlete, he wasn't allowed to be hit this spring. Rodriguez favors his quarterbacks getting some full-go exposure to get a comfort level running the option.

2. Solid at RB: Rodriguez's offense is run-first, and he has some horses in the backfield who can get it done, starting with promising sophomore Ka’Deem Carey. But there's also good depth with Daniel Jenkins, Taimi Tutogi, Kylan Butler, Greg Nwoko and Jared Baker offering a variety of skill sets -- speed, power, quality as a receiver, etc.

3. Crisis averted: Defensive back Jourdon Grandon and offensive tackle Fabbians Ebbele were arrested after a fight at a house party this spring and were suspended from the team. Ebbele started at right tackle as a redshirt freshman and might be the Wildcats' most talented offensive lineman. Grandon started four games in 2011 as a redshirt freshman and certainly will be in the mix with the new 3-3-5 scheme. Losing both or either for a game or games or even permanently would have been a big deal. But criminal assault and trespassing charges were dropped. Both are expected to be back with the team this summer.

Fall questions

1. Backup QB? Arizona has zero experience behind Scott. Heck, it doesn't really have a true quarterback behind him, seeing that Richard Morrison is primarily a slot receiver. The hope is juco transfer Brandon Denker can step into the role. The bottom line, though, is this: If Scott goes down, the offense is probably in trouble.

2. Who's the edge rusher? There are plenty of bodies on the D-line -- Sione Tuihalamaka, Justin Washington, Willie Mobley, Dan Pettinato, Jowyn Ward, Dominique Austin and Lamar DeRego -- but none of those guys is an edge rusher who can stress an offensive coordinator. Expect defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel to get creative with how he gets a fast guy near the line of scrimmage to rush the quarterback.

3. Good shape? Rodriguez was blunt before spring practices: His team was out of shape. While he was far happier at the end of spring, as players got more used to his fast-paced practices, Rodriguez won't be in his players' ears all summer, reminding them to work out and run and stay -- or get -- in shape. You can't do Rodriguez's offense in poor condition. The big test this offseason -- perhaps as big as any with this team -- is showing up in August in A-list shape.

Ted Miller | email

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