College Football Preview: The 2014 Arizona Wildcats
Arizona Wildcats 0-0
2014 College Football Preview
Odds to Win National Championship: 100-1 See the Latest Odds
Overview: head coach Rich Rodriguez is proving that you can win in Arizona, as he led the Wildcats to a bowl win and an 8-5 record for the second straight season. It’s the first time the Wildcats have won back-to-back bowl games since 1997-98. Arizona had the 11th best rushing attack in the country and beat Oregon, while taking teams such as UCLA and USC down to the wire. Now, the next step for this program is to start consistently beating the top teams in the Pac-12 and compete for a conference championship. Arizona fans are excited about football again.
Offense: Jesse Scroggins and Anu Solomon continue to fight for the starting quarterback job. Whoever wins the position, it’ll be the third new starting quarterback in each of Rodriguez’s three seasons at Arizona. Of course, with the system Rodriguez runs it all comes down to the running back production and it’s going to be difficult in replacing Ka’Deem Carey. Carey was the heartbeat of Arizona’s offense the last two seasons and racked up 42 touchdowns in those two years. While that position also has yet to be answered, Arizona does have solid receiving depth with the returns of Nate Phillips, Samajie Grant and Garic Wharton. Arizona also has four of last year’s five starting offensive linemen returning. Even with the questions, with an offensive genius at head coach, you have to believe that the Wildcats offense will be respectable by the time the season begins.
USA TODAY Sports
Defense: Arizona loses its top two tacklers in Jake Fischer and Marquis Flowers, while sack leader Sione Tuihalamaka also graduated from the program. There are holes to fill and young guys are going to have to step up for this unit to be productive. The good news for Arizona is that playmaking linebacker Scooby Wright is somebody you can build around and have lead a defense. Wright was fourth on the team in tackles, can play the pass and also makes tackles in the backfield. Arizona also has some guys who can make plays in the defensive backfield, including Tra'Mayne Bondurant, who had four interceptions last season. Arizona’s defensive line lacks depth and there are going to be a lot of wet behind the ear type players being thrown into the fire. The good news is that the Pac-12 is all about offensive production and you can usually get away with a subpar defense.
Special Teams: Drew Riggleman returns at punter after averring a little over 40 yards per attempt. In replacing kicker Jake Smith, Casey Skowron seems to be the guy after getting much of the attention in the spring.
Outlook: Arizona’s goals should be strictly on reaching a third straight bowl game, as there are a lot of questions with this team. Not only is the defense missing many key guys, but the quarterback is a question mark and Carey isn’t around to put the offense on his back anymore. The Wildcats also have to travel to UCLA and Oregon. Arizona should still have its moments and be fun to watch with its creative offense, but don’t expect what you saw the last two years. There’s just not enough pieces in place this season.