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Hope & concern: Arizona

5/10/2011

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.