Although Rich Rodriguez hasn’t officially said it, senior B.J. Denker has been the leader in the clubhouse at quarterback since camp started more than two weeks ago. It was his job to lose, and he hasn’t done enough to lose it. Or, conversely, the other options haven’t shown that they’re ready to take over.
Arizona’s running game is set and will be the focal point of the offense behind Ka’Deem Carey and Daniel Jenkins. The Wildcats should be able to dominate on the ground early in the year against some of their weaker opponents, with Carey back for his junior season after being named a consensus All-American last year. Two-back sets likely will be used frequently, and Jenkins may also line up in the slot at times.
The receiving corps is a mixed bag with Austin Hill out and David Richards expected to miss at least the first couple weeks. Terrance Miller might play both receiver and tight end. Expect Johnny Jackson and Garic Wharton to have an impact, assuming Denker can get them the ball, with Jackson in particular likely to take on a bigger role as a sophomore. And expect the freshmen (Nate Phillips and Samajie Grant) to see plenty of action early.
The offensive line should be solid behind Fabbians Ebbele, Chris Putton, Cayman Bundage and Mickey Baucus. It also has depth; imagine that.
THREE TO WATCH
Johnny Jackson. He’s already been given a strong endorsement from Hill as a potential breakout receiver. Jackson looked good at the tail end of last year and has looked good in camp. He’s a veteran the Cats need to step up for their passing game to be a real threat.
Terrance Miller. Will this be the year an Arizona tight end catches a pass? It didn’t happen last year, but it will need to this season given the lack of experience at receiver and quarterback. Short, quick passes could be the norm early, and that would mean more involvement from the tight end position.
Here’s a bit of a long shot: Jacob Arzouman. The sophomore missed last year with a knee injury but appeared to be at full strength in camp. At least some of the offensive linemen will see time at more than one position on the line, which means Arzouman, a local product from Salpointe Catholic, could see plenty of action.
WHAT’S TO LIKE
There’s plenty to like in the running game, particularly with the depth provided by Jenkins, who would be a feature back at many schools. He’s a quality player who can give Carey — the nation’s leading rusher last season — a breather and/or replace him in the event of an injury. He’s said that he’s in the best shape of his life and can concentrate primarily on football since he’s already received his degree from Arizona.
WHAT TO WORRY ABOUT
The passing game. If Denker hasn’t solidified himself as the starter by this point in camp, will he ever? And who is going to catch his passes? The depth at wide receiver is, well, basically nonexistent. Someone needs to break out and quickly. Lacking certainty at quarterback and at receiver doesn’t bode well for trying to establish some consistency through the air, which will be needed at some point to keep opposing defenses from loading up against the run.