A Look Ahead: Offense

It is never too early to look ahead. With the Wildcats staying home for another post season, the fan base can start looking to the future. Today we start with the offense.

The offense was a mixed bag this past season. Surely it was better than it was in 2005, but it took quite awhile for the spread offense to really catch on. The Wildcats eclipsed the 30-point mark five times, but was also held to 20 points or lower five times. Not surprisingly they were 5-0 when scoring more than 30 and 0-7 when scoring less than 30.

The passing game was pretty good, though they were not very good with the midrange game. Most of their completions were for less than five yards or more than 25. Willie Tuitama was pretty good with the deep ball, but all too often fell in love with it.

While the passing game was setting records, the run game continued to struggle. It was obvious that running the ball was not the emphasis, but all too often the Cats could not churn out yards on the ground when they needed to.

Quarterback:
Key Losses: Kris Heavner (5-6 19 yards)
Willie Tuitama set a number of school records, but was inconsistent. He should have the inside track at remaining the starting quarterback next year, but will have some pressure. Bryson Beirne looks to be a quick study, while Tyler Lyon has some ability if he can get out of the doghouse. Matt Scott will be a true freshman, but comes from a high school system where he ran the spread.

Running Back:
Key Losses: Chris Jennings (53 carries for116 yards, 27 catches for 236 yards)
Nicholas Grigsby had a solid season for a true freshman. He rushed for over 700 yards and had another 200 yards receiving. At the end of the year he showed he could run between the tackles for the tough yards, but needs to show more consistency. The future looks bright as he set several freshman rushing marks.

Jennings is gone, but his loss won't be too terribly felt. The Cats were able to redshirt Joseph Reece and still have Xavier Smith, Terry Longbons and Glyndon Bolasky, although the three in-state backs have to really prove they can make some kind of splash in the program. Of the three, only Smith carried the ball and he did not carry the ball after the New Mexico game. He did have 17 carries for 77 yards against NAU.

If those three are not ready to step up, the staff won't hesitate to go to one of the freshmen. Along with Reese, the Cats will welcome true freshmen Keola Antolin and Ryan Bass.

Wide Receiver:
Key Losses: Anthony Johnson (35 rec, 410 yards)
The Cats return the bulk of their receiving corps. The only loss will be Johnson, who had a shaky senior season and had been mostly replaced by season's end. The Cats bring back All-Pac-10 receiver Mike Thomas and a trio of young receivers who made a splash. Terrell Turner and Delashaun Dean had terrific seasons, while Terrell Reese showed flashes.

There is still hopes for B.J. Dennard and Mike Turner, though they will be pressed by three redshirt freshmen and a redshirt junior college transfer. Devin Veal, David Roberts and William "Bug" Wright have all been impressive this season, while Derrick Barkum may be among the fastest players on the team.

The Cats will also load up on wideouts on signing day. David Douglas and Juron Criner are already committed and they are involved with a handful of other key prospects.

Tight End
Key Loses: none
Rob Gronkowski was a revelation. Next year he could be an All-Conference player. The Cats need to find a way to get the ball in his hands more often. Expect to see him used in a wider variety of ways, including in the slot.

Lost in the shuffle was redshirt freshman A.J. Simmons. Had Gronkowski not been so good a lot of fans would be talking about the NoCal TE.

Offensive Line
Key Losses: Peter Graniello (12 starts)
The Wildcat should return just about everybody from a young offensive line. Peter Graniello graduates, but other than that the four other starters and key reserve Daniel Borg all return. Of the returning core group, four are juniors, one is a senior and one is a sophomore. Add to that the Cats get their entire crop of reserves back as well.

The team will also welcome a number of newcomers, including freshmen Kyle Quinn and Trace Biskin and junior college transfer Mike Diaz. Diaz, and any other junior college recruit, could contend for a starting job right away. Quinn and Biskin appear headed for redshirts.


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