By now, everyone is aware that there is a situation with Juron Criner. What exactly that situation is; no one really knows outside of Criner, his family and his inner circle. With football season a little under two months away, many fans are panicking about Criner's status with the team.
There have been rumors that he could miss the entire season while he sorts everything out. This is has been reported as a non-injury situation, which makes it a bit more tricky.
There is no timetable for his return; no recovery timeframe for what he is going through. Everyone has to sit and wait until Criner is ready to come out and tell everyone just exactly what is going on and how he intends to handle it.
For now, many are speculating on the Wildcats' chances in 2011 without its primary deep threat. While UA has been able to compile a group of wide receivers that should be able to hold their own even without Criner, there are so many concerns across the board that a Criner-less UA squad may simply have too many obstacles to overcome in order to compete at a high level.
Sure, Arizona has Dan Buckner, who possesses star potential. In theory, in the event Criner can't play, Buckner could assume the number one receiver role and pick up where Criner left off, but that is much easier said than done.
There are other impact wideouts like David Douglas, David Roberts, Terrence Miller and Richard Morrison that could pick up the slack in Criner's absence, but none of them have proven to be the quality of threat that Criner is.
There are unproven youngsters like Austin Hill and Tyler Slavin, but neither of them have appeared in a game in college yet.
Let's not get this subject confused either. This isn't a slight at the receiving corps as, even without their number one guy, they have enough talent at the position to provide quarterback Nick Foles with plenty of options to work with. It's when you factor in the injuries and other issues across the board that are at the forefront, that it becomes hard to imagine a squad like Arizona overcoming the loss of its clear, number one star receiver.
The impact Criner has on a game cannot be measure in just statistics. It's the threat he brings to the gridiron every time he steps on the field that the Wildcats would miss more than anything. It's not a secret that Criner has the ability to go the distance every time he touches the ball. Without him on the field, UA doesn't have someone with that capability at this point in time.
Arizona has had its fair share of problems creep up this offseason. Whether it is players leaving to pursue other opportunities in life, others being removed for academic purposes, injuries or personal problems, the Wildcats have already been forced to overcome plenty in 2011 and fall camp hasn't even begun.
If Arizona wants to compete for a conference title this season, the offense is going to need to step its game up even more. With the defense missing key players, the offense will have to shoulder more of a load in 2011. If Criner is not available, that load will become much heavier for the offense to carry.
Subtracting Arizona's star receiver would be an astronomical obstacle to overcome for the offense. Foles doesn't have better chemistry with anyone else on the roster and the coaching staff would have to shuffle some receivers around.
Another potentially big concern would be red zone offense. UA struggled enough inside the opponent's 20-yard line as it was with Criner on the field. Without him, the Wildcats chances of succeeding at a higher rate than in 2010 decrease significantly.
Obviously, Criner's personal matter completely outweighs his commitment to the football team. In terms of football, Criner is essential to the team's chance at success. If Arizona is forced to play the entire 2011 season without one of its star players, the Wildcats could be in for a long campaign.
Of course, if he ultimately returns, UA will let out a huge sigh of relief and its passing game will continue to be one of the best in the nation. Even though Arizona has other issues, as long as the Wildcats have Criner and Foles, there is still a shot for them to compete at a high level in the Pac-12 this season.
Criner situation one to watch
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