Thanks for stopping by this afternoon with some questions. I'm looking forward to getting to Seattle tomorrow and enjoying the cold and rainy temperatures. Before that, let's answer some questions...
I think the Wildcats have a lot left in the bag to show Saturday. The UA's offense has been very basic the first three games by design so they could break out some new wrinkles for Pac-12 play. Going into the season, the UA shouldn't have had any problem with NAU, UNLV or UTSA and it didn't. Because of that, RichRod and the Cats didn't feel like they needed to show a whole lot on offense. That'll change Saturday. Expect to see some new twists and formations against a really good Washington defense.
This is kind of piggybacking on the first question and yes, I do think you'll see some of things you're talking about. But I think the UA's priority and preference is that it can effectively throw the ball downfield and they're going to keep trying to do that for as long as it takes. The biggest thing that will help the zone read is being able to throw the ball and open up eventual holes for Ka'Deem Carey and the run game. The more effective the pass game is, the more wrinkles you'll see on offense.
B.J. Denker has certainly had success running the ball so far this season. He's quick, has good vision and has had no problem finding the holes in the defense. Even with how good Washington's defense is, expect him to keep doing that on Saturday. In my opinion, he's proven that he's a good running quarterback and should be able to keep it up against Pac-12 competition. Now throwing the ball is obviously a different story. RichRod will tell you Denker has gotten sharper and more accurate each week in practice and he believes success in the passing game is close. It's certainly going to be something they try to do on Saturday against Washington to help the run game.
Those are some interesting numbers you dug up, but no, I don't think Arizona would be 3-0 with UW's schedule. A big reason UW's opponents have the numbers they have is because of Washington. The Huskies have a proven offense and been effective so far this season, inflating the rankings of teams like Illinois and Boise State. If you throw out both FCS teams Washington and Arizona played (Idaho State and NAU) and just compare Illinois and Boise State to UTSA and UNLV, you would have a hard time convincing me that UTSA and UNLV are as good as those teams. Boise State has also played one of the best offenses in the country in Fresno State—another reason its numbers aren't that good. We'll see on Saturday for sure, but I think Washington enters this game much more tested than Arizona.
Really good question. I think it's a solid combination of both. Let's start with Washington. The Huskies have nearly everyone back on offense and those players all seem to be improved from last season. Quarterback Keith Price is certainly better than he was as a junior and running back Bishop Sankey has proven to be a tough, hard-nosed runner. Austin Seferian-Jenkins is also a load at tight end and UW's defense is certainly improved from last season. Then, when you look at Arizona, the Wildcats are missing Matt Scott, Austin Hill and Dan Buckner. Last year, the UA had four true playmakers with those three and Ka'Deem Carey. Now, I'd argue—at this point—Carey is the UA's only playmaker on offense. The defense is better, but we really don't know how much better. You also have to factor in the venues and the role that played. It's going to be a very tough environment for B.J. Denker to make his first road Pac-12 start. I think all those factors are a few reasons why some people are predicting a blowout on Saturday. But, that's why they play the games, right? Right.
Totally agree with you Dorado. This is a huge game for defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel and his defense. They've looked really good through three games, but this is the first true test it will face. I think Casteel and his guys are eager to prove they are indeed better and are up for this challenge. Even if Denker has a career game on offense and the UA is moving the ball all game, it won't matter if the defense can't get some stops. So, I do think there's a little pressure there for the UA defense, but it should be something they're excited for. As UA baseball coach Andy Lopez likes to ask his guys—is it pleasure or pressure? I think this should be pleasure for the UA defense because it's such a big opportunity.
To answer the second part of that question, I think they match up OK—not great. But I'm not sure how many defenses will match up well with a talented Washington offense. A huge key matchup wise is who/if anyone will shut down TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins.
I see where you're going with that and don't think it's a crazy question, but NO, I don't think that has ANYTHING to do with it. I think the NCAA has a tendency to drag things out with no rhyme or reason and I think these are two examples.
It's tough for me to really know the answer to that because we don't get to watch much practice these days, but if you listen to RichRod and the other offensive coaches, it doesn't seem like he's closed the gap at all. In fact, it now seems like he's battling Nick Isham for the No. 3 job. After not dressing against UTSA, it seems like Scroggins was in the doghouse a little bit and has a lot of work to do to get out of it. I think Denker and Allen have clearly run away with this thing. It's certainly a surprise that Scroggins hasn't been more of a factor in this QB race, but that's where we are at right now. It didn't even seem certain he would travel with the team this weekend. Who would have guessed that last December when he committed to the UA?
Good question that I was discussing with my editor the other day. It seems like linebacker Marquis Flowers will get the first crack at Seferian-Jenkins. He has the size and speed to at least challenge him. But Flowers has been coming out on third downs and hasn't been great in coverage this year. When he's not in, they may try some double teams or some zone stuff. I'm not sure they have a safety on the roster that can stick with him and I don't know how many teams do have a safety that that could stop that guy.
I'm with you and think that's an important matchup to watch. If Denker has time to throw and Carey has big holes, it will be good news for the UA. Another one I'm watching is the UA's receivers against the Washington secondary. Can the receivers create some space and make things happen and get open for Denker? They haven't been great in that regard the first three games. If they can create some separation, it would be a nice development for Denker. I'm also curious to see how the UA's defensive line holds up against Washington's front.
Quick update before I answer the next question. Arizona just released its injury report for Saturday's game. David Richards and Dan Pettinato are both probable and offensive tackle Fabbians Ebbele is questionable with an ankle injury. Austin Hill is still out.
I thought at first that it was a motivational thing and he had higher expectations for this group, but the more I talk to him and guys on the line, I just don't think they've thought they have all that well so far. RichRod made an interesting comment last week that just because the offense put up a lot of yards last season, it doesn't mean the O-line was all that great. Matt Scott and Ka'Deem certainly made them look good at times. Saturday will be a big test for this group.
I do think RichRod wants to use the tight end more, especially when he gets the type of guy in there that he likes. So far he hasn't exactly had a lot to work with and Miller is clearly more of WR than a TE. I do think they've tried to get him involved in the offense, but it's not like any wide receiver has made that big of an impact so far this year. RichRod made a point of saying he'd like to see Miller and Garic Wharton get more involved this week and I think that's a priority for this team going into Saturday's game.
I don't think it's a done deal this team will for sure be in a bowl game, despite having already won three games. If they go, I could see Vegas, maybe a return trip to New Mexico or San Fran if things go well.
He suffered a knee injury and is out for the year. He wouldn't have played much this season even if he was healthy, in my opinion.