Monday, May 9, 2011
Spring wrap: Arizona
By ESPN.com staff
2010 overall record: 7-6
2010 conference record: 4-5
Offense: 5, Defense: 5, punter/kicker: kicker
QB Nick Foles, WR Juron Criner, LB Paul Vassallo, DT Justin Washington, CB Trevin Wade
C Colin Baxter, DE Brooks Reed, DE Ricky Elmore
2010 statistical leaders (*returning starter)
Rushing: Keola Antolin* (668)
Passing: Nick Foles* (3,191)
Receiving: Juron Criner* (1,233)
Tackles: Paul Vassallo* (102)
Sacks: Ricky Elmore (11)
Interceptions: Joseph Perkins, Adam Hall*, Shaquille Richardson* (2)
1. Set at QB: With starter Nick Foles and backups Matt Scott and Bryson Beirne, no team in the conference will be as comfortable at quarterback. Foles is a three-year starter and All-American candidate who likely will be a high NFL draft pick. The hope is to redshirt Scott so he can return in 2012 and compete for the starting job with Rutgers transfer Tom Savage, but if Scott is needed he can seamlessly step in. Toss in the veteran Beirne, and you have a troika that combined for 31 completions, 380 yards and four scores in a 60-play scrimmage.
2. Deep at receiver: This is without question the deepest corps of receivers in the Pac-12 and one of the best in the nation, starting with All-American candidate Juron Criner. Texas transfer Dan Buckner provides another big target, and David Douglas, David Roberts, Richard Morrison, Terrence Miller, Austin Hill, Tyler Slavin and Garic Wharton provide plenty of options for Foles. Yes, the Wildcats should be able to pass this fall.
3. Secondary not really an issue: Free safety Adam Hall is a budding star, so you can't write off his knee injury this spring, but the Wildcats are fairly stacked in the secondary. Robert Golden can move back to strong safety from cornerback, while Trevin Wade, Jonathan McKnight and Shaquille Richardson give the defense three strong options at cornerback. Marquis Flowers is a rising star at safety. Of course, it would be nice to get Hall back at some point this season.
1. Young on the offensive line: There was optimism about the five new offensive line starters this spring, but, heck, it's five new offensive line starters. That's not an easy thing in the Pac-12. It typically takes a young line time to develop chemistry, so it will be interesting to see how the process goes for the Cats. Redshirt freshman tackles Mickey Baucus and Fabbians Ebbele looked solid, as did junior Trace Biskin and sophomore Chris Putton at the guards. Junior center Kyle Quinn is the only guy with a start to his credit (one, in the Alamo Bowl).
2. Help wanted at linebacker: The Wildcats welcomed back all three starting linebackers from 2010 until Jake Fisher went down late in the spring game with a knee injury. That brought up an issue: Sure, the starters were back but there was little to no depth behind them, particularly after two backups who were expected to return in 2011 quit the team. That means incoming freshmen will be thrown immediately into the mix: Rob Hankins, Hank Hobson and Domonique Petties.
3. Edge rush? The Wildcats are replacing three defensive ends who were selected in the NFL draft, including Brooks Reed and Ricky Elmore, multi-year starters who combined for 17.5 sacks last fall. Converted linebacker C.J. Parish was a breakout player this spring, and Mohammed Usman is solid. Still, just how good will the edge pressure be with this much inexperience?