Thursday, July 13, 2017
Bilo's 2017 College Football Previews: Arizona Wildcats
Arizona gave Rich Rodriguez a contract extension before last season. I am guessing there is some buyers remorse on that deal. The Wildcats hit rock bottom last season, and it seemed like nothing worked, and everything completely derailed. The only real question for 2017 is if the Cats have what it takes to stay out of last place in the South, and hand that honor to arch rival Arizona State, who should be close to being as bad as the Cats this season...
What To Be Excited About: Offense
We'll start with some good news in that the entire offensive line returns in 2017. LT Layth Friekh, LG Christian Boettcher, C Nathan Eldridge, RG Jacob Alsadek, and RT Gerhard de Boer all are back up front, and that is a decent building block for what was a struggling offense last season.
WR Shun Brown only caught 29 passes last fall, but averaged over 17 yards per reception, and proved that the Cats do have a play maker, if only they had a QB that could get the football to him.
What To Be Concerned About: Offense
The QB situation is a mess. No matter how anyone tries to sell it, Brandon Hawkins is not a QB you win with week in and week out. His passing skills are marginal, at best, and he has to run to succeed. Nobody wins in the PAC-12 with a run first philosophy QB, and Rich Rodriguez needs a passer. He simply does not have one.
Nick Wilson is back on the field, but the fragile back has missed more games each season than the last since his breakout freshman campaign. It would be great if he could stay on the field, but it's hard to believe that his fragile body will allow it.
Other than Brown, the receiving corps was a complete let down last season, but it was not as much their fault as one would think, as there were no credible passing QBs to take advantage of what they provide.
The kicking game was also inconsistent and downright sloppy last season, as Josh Pollack hit just 9/14 FGs, which did little to lift up a struggling offense. To his credit, three of his misses were from 50 yards or more, but with everything else going so badly, it's glaring that he couldn't hit one of those kicks.
What To Be Excited About: Defense
The old Desert Swarm has become the Desert Snore. Arizona gave up a ton of points last season at just over 38 per game, so any improvement over that would be good.
If you have to start somewhere for a building block for improvement, it is at the CB position, where both Dane Cruikshank and Jace Whittaker return. Cruikshank finished the season with seven PBUs, while Whittaker wrapped with eight PBUs. They should do a fairly good job at locking down outside threats. Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles was solid at Safety with six PBUs and 78 tackles, which were good for second on the team.
What To Be Concerned About: Defense
The front seven is completely unimpressive as we enter fall camp for the Cats. Justin Belknap is back at DE, while Parker Zellers is back at NG, but neither player blew the roof off last fallwith their pressure ability.
DeAndre Miller is the lone returning starter at LB, but finished with just 18 tackles in limited action last season. Brandon Rutt is joined by Jacob Colacion, who is a freshman.
Flannigan -Fowles is a solid Safety option in the secondary, but the other two safeties in the 3-3-5 defense that Rodriguez favors leave much to be desired. Isaiah Hayes finished with 38 tackles and was absent in pass coverage, while Tritan Cooper is a new starter as a sophomore.
The Cats had a decent thing going with Pollack as the Punter, but then a complete brain cramp happened, and they pulled him off the job for Jake Glatting, who fell well short of Pollack's averages, and making matters worse, they are going back to Glatting again.
2017 Schedule: 9/2 Northern Arizona, 9/9 Houston, 9/15 at UTEP, 9/22 Utah, 10/7 at Colorado, 10/14 UCLA, 10/21 at California, 10/28 Washington State, 11/4 at USC, 11/11 Oregon State, 11/18 at Oregon, 11/25 at Arizona State
I see no way in hell that Rich Rodriguez survives this coming season as head coach of the Arizona Wildcats. This team was abysmal last season, and there is just no other word for it, and looking at this roster, and the overall schedule, it is impossible for me to see the Cats winning enough to get out of the cellar that they will fight with Arizona State for in the South. There is certainly a limited possibility that this team somehow shocks us all and wins as many as six games, but that looks like a pipe dream to me. It should be another rough ride in Tucson.