Ka'Deem Carey – The sophomore had a breakout year, ending with record rushing numbers for the Wildcats. Before the season, there were high hopes for the young running back, but few could have guessed that Carey would break many longstanding Arizona records.
He came into the season having to battle for his starting position with Daniel Jenkins, but quickly got the starting nod and became a workhorse for the Wildcats. It was evident that Carey would be vital to the team as he ran for 147 yards on just twenty carries in the opener against Toledo.
In the next three weeks, Carey topped the 100-yard mark just once. However, from that point onward, the sophomore had more than 115 yards on the ground in all but one game.
The highlight of Carey's season may have come in the same game that the Wildcats were without senior quarterback Matt Scott. The running back ran 25 times for a Pac-12 record 366 yards, scoring a team-high five touchdowns. It was also the first of consecutive 200-plus yard rushing games for Carey.
The Wildcats' star running back finished the season with 1,929 yards and 23 rushing touchdowns, both of which are Arizona single season records, topping Trung Canidate's 1,602 yards in 1999 and Art Luppino's 21 touchdowns in 1954.
Carey is only a sophomore this year and is not able to leave for the NFL yet, which is good news for Arizona as he may finish the season as the nation's leading rusher and will be returning next season.
Daniel Jenkins – After it became evident that Carey would be the featured back, Jenkins, a junior, was resigned to a reserve role. For most of the season he saw mop up time, although he saw more carries towards the end of the season with Carey being injured and fatigued.
When the season ended Jenkins decided that he needed to change things up and try to find a new home for football, announcing that he would be seeking a graduate year at another school. His second to last game in a Wildcat uniform was his most productive on the season as he carried the ball 21 times against Arizona State for 78 yards. On the season, Jenkins only amassed 293 yards with two rushing touchdowns.
Who's gone: Daniel Jenkins (transfer), Taimi Tutogi (graduated)
Outlook: Arizona is returning Carey as the starting running back. There is no reason to expect anything less from him with more experience and conditioning leading into his junior season. If Carey can continue to perform, he will become a legitimate Heisman candidate. The plethora of other talented running backs will have to battle it out to prove to the coaches that they deserve touches.
In the spring, Jared Baker, Kylan Butler, Elliot Taylor, and J.T. Washington will have a chance to secure the spot that Jenkins left open. The first three all saw some time this season in some capacity.
Baker saw the most carries on the season, with twenty touches, racking up 85 yards and a touchdown in just four games. Butler and Taylor combined for just ten carries, although the former also returned kickoffs for part of the year. Washington redshirted this season, but has explosive speed and quick moves that could give him an advantage with a year of practice under his belt.
Chances are that whoever emerges as the number two back in spring ball will be challenged by incoming players next fall. Pierre Cormier may be the gem of the recruiting class, with speed and footwork that can make him a star at the college level. If he can learn the offense quickly, he can be a great asset next to Carey in the backfield.
Mario Alford and Zachary Green are two other players could come in right away and impact the Wildcat's backfield. The former is another speedy runner, as well as a junior college transfer that already has some higher-level experience to his name, but will still have to learn a new playbook and a new system, which could take time.
Green will just be a freshman, but adds a different wrinkle to the offense as he is more of a power runner. If he can get some early reps in the system and earns the coaches' trust, the freshman can become a perfect candidate for the red zone and short yardage situations as the season progresses. In addition, Green can also fill the hole that Taimi Tutogi is leaving as the fullback in the backfield.
Although the Wildcats will be losing the second best running back from this year's team, they will be filling his position with many talented running backs. Carey should maintain the top spot in the starting lineup, but there will be plenty of interesting and challenging battles right behind him.