Greetings everyone! Thanks for coming by to chat some UA football. There are a lot of questions already waiting for me. Let's get started.
Excellent question to start. It's a tough one to answer because Denker only got one year as a starter, and Solomon could get four. So I think you have to go with Solomon having the higher ceiling, mainly because he'll have so much more time to develop. Denker's ceiling last year got pretty high (see the Oregon and Boston College game), but again Solomon will have more time to develop and should be able to get to that point and more.
I think Solomon won the job because he's the best fit for the offense of the four quarterbacks at this time. He trusts the timing of the offense and knows where to go with the football and how to read defenses the best of all the candidates. At this point of his career, as a redshirt freshman, Solomon is more of a game manager than a game breaker. That's what this offense needs this year with a veteran offensive line and so much depth and talent at receiver. The second part of your question is TBD. Solomon will have to be good all year to hold down the spot all year and into next year. That is not guaranteed at this point at all.
Arizona got great production out of some true freshmen last year like Scooby Wright, Nate Phillips and Samajie Grant. It's hard to see anyone having that type of impact this year. Cam Denson, Trevor Wood, Nick Wilson, Jonathan Haden and T.J. Johnson should all play this year and make some sort of an impact. But it's hard — right now — to see any of those guys having the season Wright, Phillips or Grant had. Of course, you never know with injuries and some of those guys could be pressed into duty. I'd say the player with the best chance, if there is one, is Nick Wilson.
It's definitely a good question. The UA obviously has a pretty huge hole to fill with Ka'Deem Carey now in the NFL. I think the reason there isn't more concern right now is because there are so many options. If Jones-Grigsby can't get it done, there's Adonis Smith, Nick Wilson, Jared Baker, Jonathan Haden and some receivers like DaVonte' Neal and Samajie Grant who could rush the ball. If there weren't as many bodies, I think it would be a much bigger deal. The coaching staff is very happy with the camp Jones-Grigsby had and his abilities as a runner. I think Nick Wilson will eventually emerge as a good option and Smith should be a steady back. But it's definitely one of the most interesting things about this team with the season starting tomorrow.
Both of those guys were expected to come in and contribute right away, you're right. Ware came in with a shoulder surgery and missed all of training camp. He's back at practice, and I think you will see him at some point this season. He's got good size for a freshman linebacker (6-2, 210) and appears to be fully healthy. Cobb arrived at Arizona later than expected because of a summer school hang up and wasn't in the best of shape. He also battled an injury throughout camp. Rodriguez hasn't ruled out playing those guys this season if they can get up to speed and in shape. But I don't see either of those guys having a huge impact in the first game or two.
I don't see that happening, Dave. Muschamp is in better shape than most think, and the Gators should have a good year this year. I also don't know if that move would make for Rodriguez at this point. Plus getting to 9 wins in the regular season is going to be a tough, tough task.
I think senior Dan Pettinato is poised to have a really good season out of the defensive end position. He's fully healthy after missing the first four games of the season last year recovering from a torn ACL, and had a great camp according to his coaches. He's a big boy (6-4, 277) and should cause some trouble off the edge.
News has been quiet on the Tra'Mayne Bondurant front lately. Rodriguez said last week he expects him to play tomorrow night, but not start. I think it will be a few games before he works his way back into the starting lineup. But you'd have to think he'll eventually be back in the fold and make a contribution to this team. It sounds like he's stayed out of trouble since his return and has been a good teammate. He's done all the right things since his early-camp departure. But he had a lot to prove to the coaches and a lot to do to get back in their good graces.
I'd be surprised if any of those guys in the top eight dipped out during the season. The eight I'm talking about — Austin Hill, Cayleb Jones, DaVonte' Neal, Samajie Grant, Nate Phillips, Trey Griffey, David Richards and T.J. Johnson — should all play a pretty good amount. This is what the UA has wanted since Rodriguez got here. A deep group that can be rotated throughout the game. Arizona averaged 79 plays per game last season. That's plenty to divvy up.
I think it's too early for all that . Hill and Neal are both really talented players who should have big years, but there are questions surrounding both. Will Hill be the same guy he was two years ago when Matt Scott was slinging the ball around the field and the UA's depth at receiver wasn't nearly the same as it will be this year. DaVonte' Neal still has to prove he can be a major impact guy at this level. I think he will be, but it's too early to say automatically he will. Could they be by the end of the year? Yes. Are they right now? Not yet.
I think your memory may be a little sketchy. I wouldn't say Denker looked great in those non-conference games. He threw for 81 yards on 8 of 21 passing at UNLV. He often struggled to throw the ball down field in the first three games. He eventually settled in because he made adjustments and became a weapon for Arizona. But the three non-conference games did not hinder his progress at all. The UA has said they will start to schedule tougher non-conference games in the future, but the Wildcats are pretty booked up as of now. Personally, I have no problem with the way he schedules non-con games. The Pac-12 is always going to be good enough and challenge you with nine games. Play three you should win and go into the league feeling good.
I'm not sure how much Melvin and Cody were going to contribute this year, but you are right, there is not a lot of depth on that defensive line at the moment. It's important the three starters Gilbert, Worthy and Pettinato stay healthy and productive, as well as LSU transfer Jordan Allen. Don't read a lot into Fanene not being listed at the nose spot. With the way the UA plays with its three-man front, one of the ends really serves more as an end, with a linebacker or safety often trickling down to the line on the outside. It's the same spot big Sione Tuihalamaka played last year and was extremely productive out of. Zellers isn't big, but boy do the coaches love him. He's tough and holds down the middle pretty well.
Amit, your question is in moderation. You won't see it until Daniel is preparing the answer. And there are many questions waiting, so I cannot guarantee that he'll have time to answer them all.
The biggest difference is the speed of a RichRod practice. It's pretty insane how fast they move and quickly they get through practice. The Wildcats want to be fast in everything they do and practice is no exception. Also, this may surprise you, but during training camp, there's probably a little more yelling during a RR practice than Stoops. Once game week starts, that changes though and Rodriguez becomes much more reserved and more of a teacher.
That could definitely happen at some point. It's hard to know the odds right now until we see all three of those guys in real game situations. TJG and Smith offer something Wilson doesn't — experience — and Rodriguez and his staff really value that. But Wilson definitely has some skills and ability. It wouldn't shock me if he's used in a similar way Ka'Deem Carey was his true freshman season.
I really wouldn't pay attention to stars. I say that normally in any recruiting class, even though those recruiting services do a very good job. But I say it even more with Rodriguez and his staff. They really do not care about stars and other offers and all that. They have a specific skillset and type of player they want and they go after them. The three best freshman last year, Wright, Grant and Phillips, were all under recruited out of high school and didn't have many other options. If they went back onto the recruiting market, they'd all probably be four-stars. I'd trust the coaches.
Thank you for the kind words! Very nice of you to say. One tidbit I haven't gotten out there yet is that Anu Solomon went 57-3 in his high school career (which you probably know). One of his losses, and the final one of his career came to Armwood High School in Florida. On that team? UA redshirt freshman Jarvis McCall. A tip: Don't bring that up to Solomon!
Trey Griffey really came on at the end of the season and showed off his skills. I think he'll have another good year this year, but not sure about a breakout just because of how many other bodies and options there are. But he should have a solid year, even though he's listed as a backup on the depth chart. Don't read too much into that.
The UTSA game will be much more difficult than most expect, yes. I'm with you on that. They are a very experienced and talented team. Larry Coker is obviously a really good coach and will have his team ready to go when they welcome in a Pac-12 team. I think it will be a better test than most realize for Arizona going on the road for a mid-week game on short rest. I think at the end of the day, they'll get through it.
There is no position group on this team I have more questions about than the linebackers. Scooby is solid, but still just a true sophomore, and has room to grow and improve. There are a lot of options at those two linebacker spots. I think Matthews and Ippolito get the first crack tomorrow. But Miller, Kema-Kaleiwahea and Turituri should play too. Like running back, there are a lot of bodies, which lessens the concern, but a few of those guys need to step up and prove they are Pac-12 starters.
I think it's a mis conception that Rodriguez de-emphasizes the kicking game. In practice, he spends a ton of time with his specialists, and watches the kickers as they go through the drills with a very close eye. They recruited Josh Pollack here and have done a nice job developing Casey Skowron at kicker and Drew Riggleman at punter. Does he prefer to go for it on fourth downs and not kick? Sure. But he takes the kicking game very seriously and wants to nail it down. It'll be interesting to see how it shakes out this season. Skowron has shown a lot of improvement.
Good one. I think Washington State is a team that could continue to surprise some people. I really like what they're doing up there, and think they're the Arizona of the North with their offense and quick turnaround. I have them finishing ahead of Oregon State in the North. Colorado isn't quite ready to surprise anyone, but they are better than last year and will continue to get better. I have more questions than most about Washington, Stanford and Arizona State. I think all three are good teams, I'm just not sure I think they're as good as most other analysts.
Trevor Wood would make a nice big man. Cam Denson was a stud point guard at Salpointe. Stanley Johnson would be a nice outside receiver with his leaping ability. Fun question.
Arizona fans want this team to go the Rose Bowl? I hadn't heard that! It will be before 2080, but after 2015...Exact year? 2019?
Alright, I have time for one more before I have to roll. Sorry if I didn't get to your question. We had a ton of great ones. I look forward to doing this every week.
Before I get to the last question, I just want to remind everyone about our new Arizona Daily Star Sports Insider magazine for iPad. Subscribe at Tucson.com/insider or just search in the Newsstand app's store for Arizona Daily Star. We've put a lot of work into this, and I think you all will really enjoy it. Check it out!
Arizona will be 1-0 after tomorrow night, but it won't be as convincing as last year. Let's go 31-14 Wildcats.
Thanks again everyone! See you next week.