Arizona's passing game has become its main identity over the past few years. When the Wildcats transitioned to a spread offense, the quarterback position immediately became an entirely different job than it was in the previous system.
Now the Wildcats have one of the top quarterbacks in the nation heading into 2011 and the team's success depends largely on how he performs in the upcoming campaign. Nick Foles has all of the tools necessary for a quarterback to lead his team to wins, but now it's about putting it all together in his final college campaign.
Last season Foles finished his junior year with a 67.1 completion percentage, 3191 yards passing and 20 touchdowns. He put those figures up despite missing two games (not to mention a large portion of another) with a knee injury and playing through the pain when he returned.
While Foles did have his moments of struggle, he still performed at a high level for the majority of the season. With a legitimate chance at being a very high draft choice a little under a year from now, Foles will look to have an even stronger season than either of the previous two.
Foles should be getting plenty of help in the passing game again this upcoming season. Along with Juron Criner's return, Foles also has the luxury of having another impact receiver join the mix in 2011 in 6-foot-5 junior Dan Buckner. Those two targets are at the top of a very deep and talented unit that should allow Foles to lead the offense to a successful season.
Where it may get tricky for the Wildcats is what they have behind Foles.
Matt Scott is the primary backup but he could be in position to redshirt this season if Foles is able to stay healthy. Scott played in seven games – starting two and taking the majority of the snaps in another – completing 71 percent of his passes for 776 yards and four touchdowns. Scott also brings more athleticism to the table which is evident by his 632 career rushing yards.
Assuming Scott is able to sit out this season to maintain one more year of eligibility, he should be the clear-cut starter in 2012.
Even if Foles falls upon some bad luck and is forced to sit out, Arizona could turn to Bryson Beirne - who has been a backup for several years in this offense – instead of Scott. Beirne has only played in spots and hasn't really received many reps in the regular season. Beirne has a grasp on the offense though and could be successful considering how much he has studied the offense over the past three years.
Rutgers' transfer Tom Savage will sit out 2011, but is in play in 2012. Savage becomes even more valuable in the event that Scott is forced onto the field in 2011 as he would be the lone quarterback in 2012 with FBS experience in that scenario. In two years with the Scarlet Knights, Savage attempted 368 passes and threw for 16 touchdowns.
True freshman Daxx Garman will redshirt in 2011. The product from Oklahoma has not seen the field since 2009 and will get plenty of time to work on his game before his number is called. He looked like a solid prospect in spring practice as a player that throws with velocity and has good mechanics. He is still a bit raw at this point given his lack of playing time in his senior season, but the talent is certainly there.
Arizona has also landed a verbal commit in 2012 prospect Josh Kern. The signal-caller from San Antonio Tom C. Clark stands at 6-foot-5 and weighs in at 190 pounds and should be able to fit well into the Wildcats' system. He still has a full season of high school football left, so there is still plenty to learn about Kern. One thing his commitment has done is solidify the quarterback position with potential going forward.
Evaluating the Roster: Quarterback
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