2011 Record: 4-8, 2-7 Pac 12
2011 Bowl: N/A
Head Coach: Rich Rodriguez
Odds from Bovada to win Pac-12: 50/1
Rich Rodriguez has revamped and revitalized a Cats offense that ranked 11th in rushing and 1st in passing yards. Rodriguez will install the spread offense he had so much success with at West Virginia and Michigan. The Wildcats led the Pac 12 in passing but were 11th in rushing. Arizona does have to replace quarterback Nick Foles, though.
He is trying to feature a spread option in the passing game, and he’s also looking to run more. It will be mostly TB Ka’Deem Carey and QB Matt Scott to do so, not to mention the protection of a line that returns all five starters. That experience will serve Arizona well as they look to climb the ranks of a conference they are expected to do much better in.
Athlon magazine predicts a 6-6 Pac 12 finish this year, which is improvement enough from a team that just couldn’t find their groove last year.
Scott is an athletic QB who is the run-first type and he led the Cats to a victory over UCLA last year, a stomping victory in which they put up a season high 48 points, while holding the Bruins to a mere 12. He also started the Washington and Washington State games, which were both victorious efforts as well. Carey, Daniel Jenkins, and Greg Nwoko will be good running backs and should help the rushing improve from its paltry 161.6 yards per game last year, too.
At receiver, they had three guys who finished with more than 60 passes. With Rodriguez looking to run more, that figure could decrease, though. Sr. Dan Buckner has NFL potential and will be Scott’s go to target.
Defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel is going to institute a similar 3-3-5 scheme this year that he used at West Virginia in the past. The Cats are thin at linebacker so Jr. Jake Fischer, who is coming back from knee surgery, is going to be counted upon heavily, perhaps too heavily. We’ll have to keep an eye on his health this year. He’s the only linebacker with much experience.
The secondary isn’t worlds better, and the fact that the Cats finished last in the Pac-12 in defense last year is going to have to be addressed through getting the secondary in line with Casteel’s schemes. They have a good corner back in Shaquille Richardson and an up and coming Tra’Mayne Bondurant at safety/linebacker, but the back five is just a huge set of question marks.
Arizona’s kicking game is what cost Mike Stoops his job, so Rich Rodriguez has put a lot of emphasis on special teams this year.
“There’s no question for us….we’ve got to be able to make plays in special teams…” Rodriguez said to Arizona Central.
John Bonano kicked eight field goals late in the year but is going to be challenged by Jake Smith this year.
Kyle Dugandzic average 46 yards per punt and should be steady as well. For returns, Carey will handle most of the duties, and he’s pretty solid.
Arizona lacks depth but they have a good front line. Scott must stay healthy to keep the passing to notch, and the running must improve, too. They could make a bowl game this year if so. Still, Athlon magazine predicts no first or second All-Pac 12 selections for Arizona, so they will have to do it without top tier talent, other than Scott, who is also not expected to be on the first or second team.
Rodriguez worked them hard in the offseason and it will be nice having eight home games, as well…There is a lot of reason for optimism for Wildcats fans this year.