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Arizona Preview: Offense

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Examining a quarterback controversy and an injured star.

Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

Quarterback

Jerrard Randall (Sr., 6-1, 185) OR Anu Solomon (So., 6-2, 205)

On paper Solomon has been solid, completing 126 of 201 passes (62%) for 1527 yards (7.6ypa), 13 touchdowns, and zero interceptions. In reality he has been benched in favor of senior backup Randall two games in a row, and it's unclear which QB the Huskies will face. They might face both of them.

Solomon has some basic mobility, but he is mostly a pocket-passer who has performed far worse throwing the football than his numbers would lead you to believe.

Randall is a limited passer (35 of 66 passing for 415 yards and 1 pick) with an ugly delivery. He is dangerous because he can scramble with the best of them. In fact, he has rushed for an astounding 639 yards (11.0 yards per carry!) and five touchdowns.

In the loss to UCLA Randall only completed 4 of 16 passes, but his 128 rushing yards and two total touchdowns impressed. He went 15 of 28 for 178 yards at Stanford with 67 rushing yards. More recently, he helped seal a win at Colorado with 81 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Last week his two passing touchdowns and 105 rushing yards came up just short in overtime against the Cougars.

The offensive approach is a bit unorthodox with Randall running things, but no team has managed to keep him from busting off huge runs. The Huskies have also looked rough this year covering receivers once the quarterback improvises outside of the pocket, which worries me in the context of a quarterback who is almost always improvising.

Offensive Line

LT Layth Friekh (So., 6-5, 278), LG Freddie Tagaloa (Jr., 6-8, 316), C Cayman Bundage (Sr., 6-2, 281), RG Jacob Alsadek (So., 6-7, 298), RT Lene Maiava (Sr., 6-5, 301)

The Wildcats have only allowed 12 sacks over 8 games, good for 4th in the conference. For the sake of comparison, the Huskies have allowed 17 sacks over 7 games.

Considering that they've blocked for two very different quarterbacks this season, that's pretty solid, though I don't think the Arizona pass-blocking looks as good to the eye as it does via that very basic measure.

The Arizona run game has been one of the best in the conference with or without Wilson, and the line deserves a big chunk of the credit. Stanford is the only team in conference play to hold that ground game in check.

Running Backs

Nick Wilson (So, 5-10, 199), Jared Baker (Sr, 5-8, 192), Orland Bradford (Fr., 5-8, 202)

Wilson has been battling injuries, but you wouldn't know it just from checking his overall stat line for the season. He has rushed for 702 yards and 8 touchdowns at a clip of 5.8 yards per carry despite missing the Colorado game and rushing only 6 times for 8 yards against WSU.

One would assume his condition has improved since the poor showing last weekend, but it remains to be seen if he will be healthy enough to rediscover his early-season form.

His backup Jared Baker has filled in admirably, rushing 71 times for 492 yards (6.9ypc) and 6 scores. He carried the team to the win over Colorado with 207 yards and two scores, but turned in a strangely uneven 11 carry, 22 yards, 3 touchdown night against the Cougs.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

WR Cayleb Jones (Jr., 6-3, 215), SLOT Samajie Grant (Jr., 5-9, 177), SLOT Nate Phillips (Jr., 5-7, 180), WR David Richards (Sr., 6-4, 213), TE/FB Josh Kern (Jr., 6-5, 229)

Jones is the clear number one target with 36 receptions, 498 yards, and 2 touchdowns. Expect Sidney Jones to spend most of the game lined up across from him, and hope he has a better showing on the scramble drill than he did against Oregon a few weeks back.

Johnny Jackson lags just behind at 28 catches, 298 yards, and a team-high 5 touchdown catches despite showing up as Grant's backup on the depth chart.

Richards, the other traditional wide out across from Jones, has 24 catches, 358 yards, and 4 scores. Grant has been a little disappointing with 23 receptions, 181 yards, and a lone touchdown. Kern is mostly an afterthought as a pass-catcher.

Kevin King appeared to sustain some sort of injury on Saturday, but hopefully he is good to go.  Arizona boasts at least three talented slot receivers, which means lots of nickel work. Without King, the corner depth is questionable.

Overall

We shall see if the trend of Solomon starting and Randall finishing holds true for the third straight game. The longterm upside of benching a sophomore for a senior is nonexistent, but Randall's athleticism may just give the Wildcats their best chance to win this one.

If Solomon starts it means a more conventional job for the Husky defense. They will still have to chase Solomon around outside of the pocket at times, but he won't be breaking contain for 30 yard scrambles like his backup. As a result, targets for Jones, Richards, and the rest of the receiving corps should skyrocket with Solomon playing.

The QB decision may matter less than Wilson's health. If he can fully go for the first time in three weeks, Arizona can feed Wilson and Baker 15-20 times each regardless.

The Huskies are still one of the top defenses in the conference. They just so happen to have faced a fully healthy Vernon Adams and Heisman-hopeful Christian McCaffrey. They've also dealt with some nagging injuries to a number of defensive starters (though Arizona won't want to hear that excuse).

I'm confident that the defense will come out in the first half and perform reasonably well against the run and the pass, in the context of facing an offense averaging 34 points per game in conference play. The question of whether or not they can control the game through the second half will be answered by the Husky offense.

Can they sustain drives in order to give the defense reasonable field position and a little rest? It's not my job to tackle that question in this post, but it will probably be the difference between allowing 21-28 points and 35+, especially if Randall finds himself in the game and scrambling around by the fourth quarter.