- Ted Miller, ESPN Staff Writer
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TUCSON, Ariz. -- The old Canon camera commercial announced that "Image is everything!" If that's so, everything presently is wrong for Arizona running back Ka'Deem Carey, whose horrible offseason has obscured an All-American 2012 campaign that included him leading the nation in rushing.
Since closing out the season with 172 yards and three TDs in the comeback win over Nevada in the New Mexico Bowl, Carey has been in the news for three separate and unflattering incidents.
First, a domestic dispute with his pregnant ex-girlfriend led to misdemeanor assault and disorderly conduct charges. Second, he was ticketed for driving with expired registration and no proof of insurance. Third, he was thrown out of an Arizona basketball game against UCLA after a verbal altercation with arena security and then police.
That incident allegedly escalated after Carey, according the police report obtained by the Daily Wildcat, the student paper, told arena officials to “get the (bleep!) out of my face,” then added, “Do you know who I am? I’m an All-American.”
Instead of talking about how cool it is to be a potential Heisman Trophy candidate, Carey is taking a break from interviews this spring. The hope among Wildcats coaches and players is that Carey can rehabilitate his image this fall.
"It doesn't portray who he is, but that's Ka'Deem's fault," coach Rich Rodriguez said. "That's what I told Ka'Deem. He's got to work now to show people who he really is. He's a good teammate, he's a great worker, he's fun to coach because he plays hard. But he had a couple of incidents that made him look different than he really is. He's not a guy who walks around with a sense of entitlement, but his actions kind of portrayed that."
Rodriguez said Carey can work his way into good standing by the beginning of the 2013 season -- he's participating in spring practices -- but he added that his initial reaction wasn't terribly pleasant. He said, "I got a size 13, so it fits up in there pretty good."
Co-offensive coordinator Rod Smith wants people to know that Carey is not a "bad egg."
"Ka'Deem needs to understand the microscope he's under now," he said. "He needs to understand the responsibility that comes with that. He's got to mature a little bit, which I think he has through some of this. We're going to look to him for some leadership, so he needs to make sure he's right -- on and off the field."
Some other notes and observations from Arizona spring practices:
The quarterback competition won't truly begin until the fall, when USC transfer Jesse Scroggins is 100 percent -- he's out with a foot injury but could see some limited action late in the spring session -- and touted incoming freshman Anu Solomon arrives. Suffice it to say, that none of the three QBs who are full-go right now look anything like the departed Matt Scott.
It sounds like the Wildcats coaches are as high on Solomon as fans are. Smith pointed out he's started a true freshman before -- Tre Roberson at Indiana in 2011 -- but never in the season-opener. Still, he's not willing to rule out the possibility: "If the kid is good enough and he can handle it. Some kids transition better than others. Anu is a kid who was a four-year starter in high school. That doesn't mean anything for college, but at least he's been in the mode when he's the new kid on the block competing with older kids and he performed well. He was 56-4 as a starter. The kid is a winner. He knows how to move the football and win."
While some Pac-12 blog readers have taken issue with our ranking of Scott No. 4 among conference players in 2012, Rodriguez is not one of them: "He had not a good year, he had a dominant year. We rode him as hard as we could. He was phenomenal. He's an NFL player. Best thrower I've coached or coached against. And I've seen some good throwers."
Smith said sophomore running back Jared Baker, the Wildcats' fastest player, is the frontrunner to be Carey's top backup.
Rodriguez on the 2012 defense: "We had to be the smallest division I team in the country. It was scary. I quit watching the other team in warm-ups because I was losing confidence."
It's too early in spring to talk too much about defensive improvement. It's also clear the coaches expect a good handful of incoming players to see action next fall. Still, the fact that practically the entire 2012 two-deep is back is a positive. Said coordinator Jeff Casteel: "Their practice tempo and understanding of things that are asked of them are a lot better right now, and our evaluation process is a lot easier right now because we've been around them for a year."
Three starters are back on the offensive line, but Rodriguez is still a bit grumpy about the position. He said, "Physically, we're still not close to where we need to be. We're not strong enough and not explosive enough. Even though the numbers were productive [last year], we weren't overwhelming. And we're still not going to be overwhelming. We simply not big and strong enough."