Wildcats report (09.01): ‘We want to run’

By Anthony Gimino

TUCSON — Arizona’s new co-offensive coordinators have backgrounds in the pass-happy spread offense Mike Leach used at Texas Tech.

But Bill Bedenbaugh is an offensive line coach. Seth Littrell is a former Oklahoma fullback.

There is nothing finesse about either.

And the same might be true of this year’s version of the Arizona offense, which debuts Friday night at Toledo.

“I think we’re going to come out and try to pound the ball down their throat,” said senior left tackle Adam Grant.

The Wildcats have the personnel to do it. Six of the top seven offensive linemen are seniors. The other is a junior. Coach Mike Stoops knows he has three talented running backs, and he isn’t afraid to use them.

Asked about how he plans to deploy what the trio itself calls the “three-headed monster,” Stoops basically shrugged. “I don’t know who’s going to start,” he said. “We’ll just see.”

That was a bit surprising inasmuch as senior Nic Grigsby has been a starter for much of the past three seasons, and he begins the season 1,400 yards behind Trung Canidate’s school rushing record of 3,824 yards.

But for the Wildcats this season, the term “starter” is literal — as in the guy who is out there for the first play of the game, not the guy who is necessarily “best.”

Depending on the offensive package at the beginning of the game, it could be Grigsby or junior Keola Antolin or, a bit less likely, sophomore Greg Nwoko in the huddle. Nwoko, at 228 pounds, is more of a short-yardage option, but he can also handle regular tailback duties and a role in the passing game.

“Not important at all,” co-offense coordinator and running backs coach Littrell said of who starts. “What matters is how you compete and make the most out of your plays. If one guys gets the hot hand and is doing things right, then we’ll try to get the ball in his hands as much as possible.”

The expected strength of Arizona’s offense is its ability to adapt to whatever the defense tries to take away.

The Texas Tech-like screen game that former offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes favored is still in place. Go deep? Arizona has wideouts Juron Criner and speedy Travis Cobb, among others. Power football? UA can comfortably go jumbo with big tight ends and running backs.

Arizona should have an answer for everything.

“Coach Dykes was a great offensive coordinator but, for me, I kind of prefer Coach Bill (Bedenbaugh) because he understands what we want to run,” Grant said.

“I think with Coach Dykes, he wanted to pass a little bit more. But with Coach Bill, you can expect a little more pounding, like when we get close to the end zone instead of passing it in there. I kind of like that.”

–Stoops said defensive end Mohammed Usman, a junior college transfer, “has been a guy who has been a real surprise.” Usman joins a talented rotation at end that features seniors Brooks Reed, Ricky Elmore and D’Aundre Reed, so his time might be limited if everyone stays healthy. But his development is encouraging for next season when all those other guys are gone.

–Arizona will be the first Pac-10 team to play a road game in a Mid-American Conference stadium. Toledo is 5-1 against its past six BCS-conference opponents in the Glass Bowl.