Analysis of the offense

Fall practice is over a week old and clues to how the new Arizona offense will look are becoming clearer. Part of the allure in hiring John Mackovic was his successes on the offensive side of the ball. Multiple formations, shifts and motion, and a variety of play calling has been on display at practice.

The first thing you'll notice is there is movement on just about every play. Split backs shift to the "I", or "I" backs move into a split backfield. One prominent feature is that on many plays the tight end starts out flanked out and standing up, only to shift over to a three-point stance on the line.

Although perceived as a pass-happy offense, practice has been fairly balanced between the pass and the run. While the playbook may contain more passing plays, expect the play calling to be fairly balanced. Mackovic has said that in the past his run/pass ratio has never been more than 55-45 and is usually between "53-47 or 44-46 percent in favor of the pass."

"Our offense isn't built around any one thing," Mackovic said.

In practice the offense has used a wide variety of play calling. They have pass plays that stretch the field, then turn around and keep all of the receivers close in. They run it up the gut, then show option out of a no tight end set. Unpredictability is the key; this isn't a one-dimensional offense.

"We're going to pass the ball all over the field," said fifth-year receiver Malosi Leonard. "We're certainly going to pass the ball more than any other time I've been here."

While the receiving corps is obviously a vital part of the passing game, the tight ends have taken on a much greater role. Wildcat tight ends are much more multi-dimensional in Mackovic's offense. Although still required to block, the tight ends are now a focal point of the passing attack, a point not lost on the players.

"We're definitely going to get thrown to more," Justin Levassuer said. "Toge (James Hugo) should get about 20 catches, and my goal is to get at least 10."

While the tight ends like Mackovic's offense, Mackovic is impressed with his tight ends.

"We have good strength at tight end," Mackovic said. "Whoever catches the ball best will be in there."

Like the tight ends, the Wildcat running backs have a variety of roles to fill. All Wildcat running backs will be required to run, catch and block. Arizona has only one pure fullback returning, so blocking is a highly valued skill for all of the backs. Tremaine Cox and Anthony Fulcher have both been used as lead blockers as well as tailbacks.

"I'll do whatever it takes to get on the field," Cox said of his role as a blocker as well as a runner.

Another change is the wide variety of formations. The Cats use two backs, a single back and even a full house backfield. They also use two, three, and four receiver sets, as well as a wide array of tight end alignments.


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