Friday, May 7, 2010
Arizona spring wrap
By ESPN.com staff
2009 overall record: 8-5
2009 conference record: 6-3 (tied for second)
Offense: 9, Defense: 4, punter/kicker: 2
Top returners: QB Nick Foles, WR Juron Criner, RB Nic Grigsby, C Colin Baxter, CB Trevin Wade, DE Brooks Reed, DE Ricky Elmore
Key losses: WR Terrell Turner, OT Mike Diaz, DT Earl Mitchell, LB Xavier Kelly, FS Cam Nelson, CB Devin Ross
2009 statistical leaders (*returning starter)
Rushing: Keola Antolin* (643)
Passing: Nick Foles* (2,466)
Receiving: Juron Criner* (582)
Tackles: Devin Ross (81)
Sacks: Ricky Elmore* (11.5)
Interceptions: Trevin Wade* (5)
1. So far so good with four coordinators: It was only a first run through spring practices but the Wildcats new arrangement with both offensive and defensive co-coordinators seemed to work well throughout spring practices. For one, it appears they've got a plan for the press box and play calling. Further, it helps that coach Mike Stoops is familiar with sharing a coordinator job (he shared the defensive job at Kansas State). It also probably helps that all four guys seem to like each other.
2. There's a lot of skill here: Start with quarterback Nick Foles. Then there's Juron Criner, who is as physically talented as any receiver in the Pac-10. Then there's Bug Wright, David Douglas, Delashaun Dean, Travis Cobb and Gino Crump. And Nic Grigsby, Keola Antolin and Taimi Tutogi in the backfield. Lots of guys who can do things with the ball in their hands.
3. The ends are the beginning: Ends Ricky Elmore and Brooks Reed are a good start for a rebuilding defense that lost seven starters. If a defense can pressure the quarterback -- and Elmore and Reed can -- that makes things easier everywhere else.
1. How will Matt Scott be used: While Scott lost the starting quarterback job to Foles early last season, the coaches still think he's capable of helping the offense, particularly with his speed. Scott also looked like a more confident and refined passer this spring -- guidance from new QB coach Frank Scelfo helped -- so he figures to have a few personal packages inserted into the game plan. And if Foles falters or gets hurt, Scott is a nice plan B.
2. How quickly will the new LBs pick things up? It's not easy to replace seven starters, but it seems particularly burdensome to have voids at all three all LB spots. Things are even more difficult when you're counting on a pair of JC transfers -- Derek Earls in the middle and Paul Vassallo on the weak side -- to immediately step into the starting lineup. The Wildcats will be fine in the secondary -- watch out for incoming freshman Marquis Flowers to get into the mix -- because that's Stoops' specialty. And there's some intriguing talent at defensive tackle, including redshirt freshman Sione Tuihalamaka. But the linebacker question wasn't answered this spring.
3. Paging Nic Grigsby: Grigsby can be a dynamic player with the ball. He's got home run speed and 2,424 career rushing yards. He averages 5.3 yards per carry. He's a good receiver out of the backfield. But he needs to find a way to stay healthy, which he didn't this spring or much of last year. With capable players like Antolin, Tutogi, Greg Nwoko and Daniel Jenkins eager for touches, at some point coaches might just sit Grigsby and go with guys who can stay on the field.