If Arizona is going to have a successful 2011 season, the running back position must produce more than it did in 2010. Talented but oft-injured running back Nic Grigsby saw his eligibility run out, so there will be some production to make up. With Grigsby spending so much time hurt, it shouldn't be the toughest task in terms of replacing what he did on the field
Keola Antolin will assume the starting duties and has proven to be a productive back since he arrived on campus. If Arizona wants to be a contender, other running backs will have to rise to the occasion.
A player turning heads in both spring and fall camp has been Daniel Jenkins. One of the top-rated players UA landed from the 2009 class, Jenkins is excited to finally get on the field and make an impact.
"I have been waiting," Jenkins said. "It feels really good. I can't wait. I am excited."
UA has utilized several backs over the past couple of years and has been used to the depth on the roster. With Greg Nwoko nursing an ACL injury, the depth has taken a significant hit. That's where Jenkins hopes to pick up the slack and believes he and his running back teammates are progressing nicely.
"I think everybody is working really hard," Jenkins said. "As far as the older guys – me, Keola and Kylan Butler – we are battle tested as far as knowing our plays and picking up blitzes. The new guys we are trying to bring along as fast as possible and they're doing a pretty good job."
One big concern for the backs is the state of the offensive line. With virtually five brand new starters taking the field in September, there is some uncertainty there in terms of run-blocking. Jenkins is happy with the progress he sees with the new group and is confident in their abilities.
"The offensive line is improving," Jenkins said. "They're really impressing me each day coming out and working hard. They have handled themselves really well. They're improving each day."
One subject every UA fan kept a close eye on this offseason was the Juron Criner situation. Now that the Wildcats' star receiver is back with the team, many are pondering just how ready he is for the 2011 campaign. According to Jenkins, Criner is already back to his old self.
"Juron is the same guy," Jenkins said. "Juron has always been a standup guy. Everybody speaks very highly of him and you can see no difference. Juron is Juron. He's going to be that number 82 catching the long balls and scoring touchdowns and making plays for us."
Despite a few concerns on the offensive side of the ball, Jenkins is confident with what he has witnessed at practice early on. More importantly, the sophomore believes he is more than prepared for what lies ahead.
"I feel comfortable," Jenkins said. "I feel really good. I am excited to get out there and show what I can do because I am comfortable with myself as far as knowing the plays and my schemes in the offense and picking up blitzes. I am excited to get out there and show what I can do."
Jenkins working hard
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