I have always subscribed to the quiet, unwritten rule of not calling out these young athletes, no matter how badly I wanted to. But after watching the Arizona Wildcats struggle through the first half of their schedule this season, I feel the need to do just that. It is my opinion that there are three players on the young Wildcat offense that need to be called to task for their efforts, or lack thereof, so far this season.
Junior offensive tackle Pete Graniello, Senior offensive guard Adam Hawes and Junior running back Chris Henry have had their time in the sun to try and shine and all Wildcat fans have seen is a complete eclipse. It is these three upper classmen and supposed ‘leaders' of the offense that have consistently failed to lead and really have failed on every level of their play.
I don't think that it is for a lack of effort or even a lack of willingness on each of their parts to be successful but rather it is my opinion that neither one of these three are worthy of a spot in the lineup based on their ability, both mental and physical. So far the play of these three athletes has been so bad that I would venture to say that none of them should even be in the two deep but instead should probably be used on the scout team to try and help the younger, more talented guys, better prepare for their upcoming games.
The surprise of the group, at least for me, is Graniello. After having off-field issues last season and struggling at the start of the year he came on and played very well the latter half of the year. He played so well that he earned Honorable Mention All Pac-10 honors for his sophomore exploits. What has happened this season is simply inexplicable. It is extremely rare to see an experienced and grizzled veteran like Graniello regress but that is exactly what Wildcat fans have seen.
If there were ever a reason to defend Graniello for his play it is the fact that he has been injured all year long. All season he has had to battle a badly injured shoulder and he must be commended for playing through such pain. But in the same vain it is still just a shoulder injury and it does not explain why he has been so out of position all year long and has simply looked lost. All year he has struggled and all year it has been the Arizona quarterbacks that have paid for his inexcusable mistakes.
Senior guard Adam Hawes, like Graniello, has been simply terrible all year long. Time and again Hawes has been unable to get any push at all and he has consistently been pushed around, even by smaller and less superior defensive linemen. From penalties to serious mental lapses that have allowed blitzers easy access to Wildcat signal callers, the senior guard has been a serious detriment to the line.
Even though the play of Hawes has been terrible, maybe the most frustrating part of watching this team play has been the coaching decisions surrounding his play. Line coach Eric Wolford has noticed the lack of good play by Hawes and has consistently replaced him with red shirt freshman Daniel Borg and when Borg has entered the game at the left guard spot, the line has actually played much better.
Against UCLA Borg was used in the first half as a replacement for Hawes and the Cats subsequently drove the field and scored their lone touchdown of the day. After watching the line improve with Borg in the lineup I thought that he would have stayed in and finished the game but that was not the case. Inexplicably Hawes came out and started the second half and the Wildcat offense again went totally inept.
After a couple of series Hawes was again replaced by Borg and the offense almost instantly ran the ball better and again started to move the ball.
The decision was made in Fall Camp to go young with the offensive line. The Cats have started three red shirt freshmen at points this season, with Blake Kerley and Eben Britton starting every game. Now it is time to go even younger with the entire line as the only upper classmen in the rotation have been atrocious. Maybe it is time to give red shirt sophomore Bill Wacholz a chance at either left guard or left tackle. He simply cannot do any worse than Graniello or Hawes.
If the Wildcats' offensive line is going to continue to struggle then it should do so after shaking things up. It is time that fans see a lineup, from left to right, that consists of Daniel Borg (LT), Bill Wacholz (LG), Blake Kerley (C), Joe Longacre (RG) and Eben Britton (RT). It is a unit with very limited experience but it is also a unit with a much higher ceiling than one that has Hawes and Graniello included.
The third player that needs to sit, or at a minimum be used in a different way, is junior athlete Chris Henry. There has never been any doubt about his physical abilities as he has proven time and again to be a freak of an athlete but he is simply not a running back. Time and again Henry amazingly runs sideline to sideline and almost refuses to run north to south. He has been consistently afraid of getting hit, or god forbid, delivering a hit.
Henry possesses no redeeming instincts as a running back and it is time to give the younger guys that have waited patiently a chance. Henry has already lost his starting job to walk on junior Chris Jennings, and rightfully so, but now, in my eyes, he should also lose his backup job and freshmen Xavier Smith and Terry Longbons need to be given their shot.
One thing that Henry has improved on is his ability to pickup blitzing defenders and his overall blocking. But even with that improvement, he still lacks in those areas and he truly lacks in play making ability. But the cherry on top of the Chris Henry sundae is the fact that he has become something of a cancer. He has already suffered a one game suspension due to his inability to attend class with regularity but the thing that did it for me was the fact that he was literally the only person leaving the field after the Washington game with a smile on his face. To me that sowed that he simply doesn't care. He doesn't care about winning and he sure as hell doesn't care about the program, which he showed clearly when he screwed up in the classroom.
Last week Arizona head coach Mike Stoops talked about accountability and it is time for some of the problem players to be held accountable. Graniello, Hawes and Henry need to sit and other guys need to be given their shot. It is time for a shake up with the Wildcats and this is the first place to start with the shake up. Position coaches Eric Wolford and Kasey Dunn need to make the call and if they don't then either Mike Canales or Mike Stoops need to make it.
These three ‘leaders' need to sit and the others need to be given their shot. Things can't get any worse and if they are going to stay as bad as they have been then it is time to play young guys that at least have a chance to improve. If anything else the changes will add to the intensity and fire of an already terrible offense.