Arizona 2014 Spring Football Wrap Up.
The biggest strength is definitely the group of wide receivers the Wildcats have this year. They’ll be led by a couple of transfers Cayleb Jones and DaVonte’ Neal, as well as Austin Hill, who missed the 2013 season due to an ACL injury he suffered last spring.
But the WRs easily go eight-deep, with a wide variety of body types, from the big guys of Jones, Hill and David Richards, to the small, fast guys like Neal, Samajie Grant, and Nate Phillips. And then there’s Trey Griffey, who really started to emerge at the end of last season, and the fastest guy on the team, Garic Wharton. It’s scary how good the receivers are going to be.
The weakness is probably the pass rush. Where will it come from? The three main pass rushers from last year are all gone (Tevin Hood, Sione Tuihalamaka, and Marquis Flowers), so there’s a huge void on the defensive line, and at outside linebacker. A couple of freshman are coming in this fall that RichRod expects to contribute immediately at those positions, but during the spring there wasn’t a lot to be excited about in the front seven.
Staying with those freshman defensive players coming in, I think Jamardre Cobb and Marquis Ware have a chance to be impact freshman in the same way that Scooby Wright was last season.
Cayleb Jones is the guy on offense that seems like he’ll be the breakout guy. His freshman year at Texas, he only had one catch. I think he’ll be one of, if not the best receiver in the Pac-12 this season. His size, speed and ball skills will make the quarterback’s job much easier, no matter who it ends up being.
We won’t know who the starting QB will be until the first game, but there are several options to be excited about. I think it comes down to Texas transfer Connor Brewer and USC transfer Jesse Scroggins, with a possible look at Anu Solomon just because he’s younger (redshirt freshman). They all look better than any of the options did last year at this point, and B.J. Denker turned out pretty decent, so it’s something to be excited about. There’s just a lot of unproven guys.
Replacing someone like Ka’Deem Carey will be impossible, and it doesn’t look like there’s a lot of talent there. I think a lot of rushing yards in 2014 will come from sweep plays to Neal and Grant moreso than running tailbacks straight out of the backfield. I think RichRod is counting on four-star RB recruit Nick Wilson to come in during the fall and give everyone a run for the starting gig.
So excited to see what these wideouts will do together on the field.
Four of five starters return, so there’s a lot of synergy there.
Still a lot of questions here. I think Reggie Gilbert will have a big year depending on who gets thrown in there with him.
Scooby Wright moving to MLB is intriguing. He was great at OLB last year as a true freshman, and he’s only gotten bigger and faster since the bowl game. I expect to see a lot of DeAndre’ Miller as well as those freshmen Ware and Cobb.
There’s a lot of experience there, which I’m not sure if that’s good or not given how the pass defense has looked the last two years. Tra’Mayne Bondurant had a huge year last year, and I think he’ll only get better. The question is who will be the second corner lined up across from Jonathan McKnight. It could be Will Parks, Devin Holiday, Patrick Glover, or even a WR playing both ways in freshman Cameron Denson.
Special teams: C+
The return game will be a threat this year, which was definitely not the case last year. DaVonte’ Neal is so fast, and has a lot of moves when he’s in the open field. Nate Phillips and Samajie Grant will also be returning kicks, and maybe Johnny Jackson as well. But Neal will most likely be the main guy.
Arizona fans know that the kicking game has always been the issue, and hopefully Casey Skowron can change that. He didn’t kick a lot in the spring, but was perfect in the Spring Game.
Definitely improvement. It’s the third year under RichRod, and the coaching staff has essentially remained intact during those years to build this program in the right direction.
Last year’s offense was all Ka’Deem Carey, and this year there are tons of weapons. The only question is if the defense will have any success up front.
A somewhat favorable schedule with no Oregon State or Stanford, and the Cats get ASU, USC and UW at home. I think 9-3 is realistic barring injuries and whatnot.
Jason Bartel of Arizona Desert Swarm provided the information for our Arizona 2014 Spring Football Wrap Up. For more Wildcat football information, commentary and analysis, you can follow Jason on Twitter @jasonbartel.