Arizona Preview

Consider this question and quickly answer who first comes to mind:  name which Pac 10 coach is perenially on the hot seat?  Most conference fans would likely answer Arizona head man Mike Stoops, who has been in that uncomfortable spot for the past two seasons, 2009 being no different.

Stoops has done a mostly solid job recruiting for the Wildcats since taking over a team in utter anarchy following the tenure of John Mackovick. While Stoops has recruitied well, he hasn't created enough balance to fill out the squad in key places, including the QB position for 2009. If Arizona can't get the production they need from their signal caller, it is going to be a long, ugly year for Stoops, who sports a 17-29 record over the past four seasons.

Arizona administration has helped Stoops by softening the non-conference schedule, opening with Northern Arizona and Central Michigan, while a meeting with Iowa adds a bit of respectibility to the schedule. 

This season, Arizona returns six starters on offense and seven starters on defense which is a decent nucleus to build from. TB Nic Grisby returns for his junior season after rushing for 1,153 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2008. Keola Antolin also scored 10 rushing touchdown in a backup role.

At wide receiver, the Wildcats have three players back with at least 40 catches or more last season.  Led by TE Rob Gronkowski and his 47 catches for 672 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2008, Delashaun Dean will be tough to deal with on the outside,  catching 53 passes for 593 yards and four more scores.

Looking to take over at QB will be Matt Scott.  The true sophomore saw limited action in six games last season, primarily as a running threat.  Competing with Scott is Michigan State transfer Nick Foles.

The Wildcats lose significant talent on the offensive line due to graduation.  While senior center Blake Kerley has started 28 games in his career, he is coming off an injury that sidelined him for most of 2008. Rebuilding an offensive line and starting a new QB is never a recipe for success in the tough Pac 10 conference.

Though Arizona loses three of their four top defensive tackles from 2008, they still have a formidable presence on the defensive line.   Led by DE  Brooks Reed, who had Arizona with eight sacks in 2008 and at 255-pounds, has great speed off the edge.

Xavier Kelly is the lone returning starting linebacker, playing the weak side. Kelly had 51 tackles and three sacks in 2008.

The Arizona secondary has both starting safeties back in Cam Nelson and Keenyn Crier, but at cornerback, Devin Ross is the lone player with much experience. Backup Trevin Wade had four interceptions in 2008 to lead the unit.

Consensus


Many experts believe Arizona will struggle this year on offense due to the lack of experience at QB and on the offensive line. They do return a decent front four on defense but the LB corp and secondary are very suspect going into the season. This probably won't be the year the Wildcats move into the conference's upper echelon.

Early Prediction

Washington has the advantage of facing Wildcats at Husky Stadium. Jake Locker and the Husky offense have the potential to put up a lot of points on the UA defense. Defensively, a young, maturing Husky defense should be able to shut down the UA passing game if they can control the running of TB Nic Grisby.

Though Washington has been down most of the decade, beating Arizona has typically been quite dependable.  Thus, I am predicting a Husky victory and moving to 2-1 in conference play.

At this point in the mid season the Huskies should be either 3-3 or 4-2. In either case, they will have been competitive in all games  and Husky fans will be talking bowl games.

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