Know Your Foe: Arizona

How much has the firing of Mike Stoops last month affected the Arizona Wildcats? With the ASU Sun Devils limping into this game how can their archrival possibility exploit their weaknesses? With the battle over the Territorial Cup just days away, Devils Digest invited Senior Editor Jason Scheer to answer those questions and others concerning the University of Arizona.

It's been just over a month since Mike Stoops has been fired. In hindsight do you agree with that decision? Do you feel that the team has been playing hard for Tim Kish or do you feel that with three consecutive losses and the coaching uncertainty that they have been mailing it in the last few weeks?

I absolutely agree with the decision to fire Stoops because I feel as if he reached a plateau. With that being said, it definitely was not easy for him with all the injuries and ridiculous early season schedule, but that does not excuse the loss against Oregon State, which was the final nail in the coffin.

As far as Kish goes, I feel the players played hard in the UCLA game and Washington as well, but faltered after the Utah game. The effort was absolutely not there against Colorado and there has been some calling out done by the captains and coaching staff because of it.

After the big win against UCLA some thought that maybe Arizona could possibly turn the season around. What has happened since then that saw the team regress?

That win, to me, was a lot about energy. Often times when a coach is fired, that first game after the team plays well. This Arizona team just had major holes right now. At times, Arizona was playing Lyle Brown because of injuries and suspensions and he is a guy that would not normally play. On offense, Foles is trying too hard and it is really starting to show.

The season started with a lot of inexperience on both the offensive and defensive line. As the season nears a close which group do you think has seen more improvement and why?

The defensive line is still struggling and a lot of that is injury issues. Justin Washington can't get healthy and Sione Tuihalamaka is battling an infection as well. C.J. Parish has been hurt for a few weeks now and Arizona has been forced to take a guy like Kirifi Taula, who is probably a DT, and move him to the end.

The offensive line is getting better as a unit and is still definitely young, but the consensus of those around the program is that is going to be very good down the road. This is a unit that will be together the next two or three years and there seems to be gradual improvement.

Aside from those two units being green, what else is very different from last year's team to this year's?

The absence of Ricky Elmore and Brooks Reed is a major difference and one that can't be understated. Arizona had a legitimate pass rushing option last year and there really is not one this year. Besides that, there are not a ton of differences. The team is definitely younger but the way it plays remains similar.

With all the problems that the ASU secondary showed last week against Washington State should Nick Foles and the Arizona passing game be licking their chops for this week's game or do you feel that they have some issues of their own in the last few weeks?

Yes and no. I think there is definitely room for success, but the passing game struggled against a bad Colorado secondary. At this point, Foles is trying to be too perfect and it is costing him a bit. He sometimes forces the issue and Arizona has turned the ball over in situations where it could not afford to. At the same time, the offense is talented enough to get back on track at any moment and be successful.

Speaking of Foles do you believe he should be considered as the best QB Arizona ever had? What makes him such a special signal caller?

That is definitely a debate that is going on right now. Personally, with the bowl games and such, I think he has a legitimate argument. What makes him special is the fact that he can put the team on his back and take it to places where it has no business being. Make no mistake about it, while Arizona's record is not impressive, it has been involved in close game because of Foles.

Can you talk about the Arizona defense and what are some his strengths and weaknesses?

The defense is really inconsistent and the biggest weakness is depth. Arizona plays the minimum amount of linebackers and there is not a lot of quality depth on the line at all. Players like Robert Golden and Trevin Wade are probably the strengths and so is the fact that there are players there for the future.

Who are some of the players on both sides of the ball that ended up being unexpected contributors this year?

On offense, Gino Crump has been somewhat of a surprise. He has been waiting to break out for a year or two now and finally he has been able to put it together to have some big games this season.

On defense, it is Tra'Mayne Bondurant, a true freshman. The kid is an absolute stud and it is a travesty that he did not play while Stoops was the coach. A legitimate argument could be made that he is the best player on defense right now.

Last year's Territorial Cup game was obviously a very emotional one for both teams for very different reasons. Do you feel that the loss last season was still affecting the Wildcats this year, especially in the kicking game?

Not at all. It definitely stings, but the reality is that it should not carry over. The kicking issues were because Alex Zendejas just is not a good kicker and it really is not more complicated than that.

Do you feel that this time next month Arizona will have a head coach in place or do you expect the search to drag on until January?

I feel this time next month Arizona will absolutely have a coach. In fact, it would not surprise me if Arizona named a head coach next week, as the goal is to hire one by December 1.

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