Monday, May 16, 2011
Hope & concern: Arizona
By ESPN.com staff
Every team has hope heading into the offseason. And every team has concerns.
Ergo, we're going to run through the conference and look at the chief matters -- on the up and downside -- for each Pac-12 team.
First up: Arizona
Biggest reason for hope: The Wildcats passing game will be potent.
Three-year starter at quarterback who's thrown for more than 5,000 yards and 39 touchdowns (Nick Foles)? Check. All-American candidate at receiver (Juron Criner). Check. A 6-foot-4, 220-pound transfer who was good enough to catch 45 passes as a sophomore on a team that played for the national title (Dan Buckner). Check. Three other receivers with at least 29 receptions in 2010 (David Douglas, David Roberts and Terrence Miller)? Check. A converted QB who surged late in the season catching the ball (Richard Morrison)? Check. Intriguing, athletic young players (Austin Hill, Tyler Slavin and Garic Wharton). Check. An offensive coordinator with a Texas Tech-Mike Leach background (Seth Littrell). Check. A backup QB (Matt Scott) who has proven himself capable as a starter? Check. Arizona led the Pac-10 with an average of 307.7 yards passing last year. Don't be surprised if that already high number goes up.
Biggest reason for concern: There are five new starters on the offensive line.
Another reason the Wildcats might pass a bunch in 2011 is because a young line might not be able to push anyone around. The Wildcats are replacing all five starters from 2010, and only center Kyle Quinn has ever started a game. And he's only started one -- last year's Alamo Bowl -- because Colin Baxter had a knee injury. Further, these guys were on the bench while last year's starters often struggled: The Wildcats gave up 32 sacks, ranking eighth in the Pac-10, and also ranked eighth in rushing. If the Wildcats have to throw the ball 45 to 50 times a game, Foles is probably going to take some hits. That's why Scott is a valuable security blanket. Things went OK for the line in spring practices, but the unit will be the biggest concern heading into the season.