The arrival of new Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez has instilled some enthusiasm back into the UA fan-base. With his past success – which includes him leading West Virginia to two BCS bowl appearances – Rodriguez has brought a lot of excitement to the future of Wildcats' football.
While Arizona loses several key players from the 2011 squad, there are multiple returning pieces in place that fit the style and philosophy of Rodriguez's system. Rodriguez generally likes his athletes to be quick and fast and there should be plenty of those types of players to work with in 2012.
The first name that comes up when referring to Rodriguez's system at UA is quarterback Matt Scott. After redshirting in 2011, Scott will assume the starting quarterback duties in 2012 and it will be in a system that should be able to get the most out of him.
The first comparison people will try to draw is former West Virginia signal-caller Pat White. When Rodriguez was at the helm at WVU, White was at the center of a very potent offense. Scott will only have one year under Rodriguez whereas White spent his first three years of college under the head coach.
White led a deadly attack with running back Steve Slaton. With the option being utilized and White and Slaton in the backfield, the Mountaineers concluded the 2007 season third in the entire nation in rushing.
Time will tell whether or not Scott can lead Arizona to anywhere close to that accomplishment, but with potential superstar Ka'Deem Carey alongside him in 2012, many UA fans have vast expectations of the running game under Rodriguez.
Scott has ran for just a fraction of the yards (632 over three season) White gained at West Virginia, but he has shown superior athleticism and a willingness to utilize his feet in order to pick up large chunks of yards throughout his time with the Wildcats..
Scott's skill-set should be better utilized in Rodriguez's system. It is designed for a mobile quarterback that can run the option more so than one who's more of a traditional pocket passer. What could help Scott excel even further is that he has grown immensely as a thrower since he first arrived on campus and that should allow him to keep defenses honest in Rodriguez's scheme.
Carey is a player that went into college with a ton of hype. He showed flashes of brilliance throughout the year and looked to improve each week. Carey gained 425 yards on 91 attempts (4.7 yard per carry) and rushed for six touchdowns as a true freshman.
Given Carey's work ethic and natural ability, he should be in for a big season as a sophomore. With Scott at quarterback, defenses are going to have to figure out which one to stop and both are deadly with their feet. Scott should make Carey's life in the backfield easier (and vice-versa) and if those two adjust to Rodriguez's system early the rest of the offense will quickly follow.
It doesn't just stop with Scott and Carey either.
Daniel Jenkins showed that he has the potential to be a viable contributor, especially towards the end of the season. The sophomore was used sparingly, but averaged 5.7 yards per attempt out of the backfield and provides Rodriguez with another shifty back that can contribute on the ground as well as the passing game.
In a run-heavy offense, Jenkins could be another deadly weapon when paired with a mobile quarterback like Scott. Jenkins can make plays in space and is the type of running back that fits the spread-option very well. When defenses key on Jenkins, he can be held to a short gain or less. When the defense isn't able to focus on one player, however, Jenkins can make the opposition pay.
Other running backs such as Kylan Butler and Jared Baker could provide the Wildcats' offense with quality depth. Like Carey and Jenkins, both are shifty athletes that can create when given room to do so. In Rodriguez's system, it wouldn't be surprising to see each one of these players make some kind of impact on the field in 2012.
Even though Rodriguez's play-calling tends to sway in the direction of the run, there are multiple wide receivers that could excel in his scheme. There have been questions arising from the UA fan-base regarding whether or not wide receiver Richard Morrison could move back to quarterback – the position he played in high school.
Morrison's tools at the quarterback positions are more suited for Rodriguez's offensive philosophy than the previous regime's at Arizona. That doesn't mean Morrison will switch positions though. The sophomore has shown signs of being a very effective option at receiver and, assuming he stays put, he could be even more of a threat at wideout than he has been in the past.
The system Rodriguez likes to run uses a lot of misdirection and that includes the wide receiver position. Morrison could be used on screens, fly-sweeps and all other sorts of plays that tend to be used in the spread-option. His speed and quickness make him a candidate for a breakout season in 2012, no matter what position he takes on.
A dark-horse that doesn't get mentioned often is Garic Wharton. When Wharton arrived at Arizona he was regarded as one of the fastest high school football players in the country. As a redshirt freshman, Wharton was used sparingly with several receivers being already established in UA's offense. With a new coach leading the charge, Wharton will get a fresh start in his sophomore season.
Given Rodriguez's infatuation with speed, it only seems natural for Wharton to make more of an impact in 2012. His talent allows him to be used to stretch the field, but his agility makes him a player to keep an eye on in the short passing game as well as the rushing attack.
While some national pundits have alluded to Arizona having bare cupboards, the reality is that it doesn't. There are already many pieces in place for Rodriguez to implement his scheme. He still has plenty of work to do on the recruiting front in order to build for 2013 and beyond, but his team is in much better shape than the majority of the nation realizes.
Rodriguez has talent to work with
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