Players To Watch
#12 SO 6’2” 205-pound QB Anu Solomon
2015 stats: 126 of 202 for 1549 yards, 62.4% completion, 7.67 YPA, 13 TD, 0 INT, 148.0 RAT, 32 carries for 105 yards, 3.3 YPC, 31 long, 1 TD
Sneak Peak: Statistically, Anu Solomon is incredibly efficient. His 13:0 TD:INT ratio is incredible. He’s thrown for a respectable 1549 yards in the seven games he’s played this season. He’s a solid scrambler that can even hurt defenses with his feet. However, senior quarterback Jerrard Randall has seen his playing time increase over the past couple weeks. It wasn’t until Randall took the field that the Wildcats found their stride against Washington State last week. It remains uncertain who will get the starting nod this week against the Huskies. This, however, is certain; Anu Solomon is the best passer of the two. He can also do some damage with his legs, but mostly just as a scrambler to extend plays and look downfield.
Husky Comparison: A version of Jake Browning that is better at scrambling
#8 SR 6’1” 185-pound QB Jerrard Randall
2015 stats: 35 of 66 for 415 yards, 53.0% completion, 6.29 YPA, 4 TD, 1 INT, 122.8 RAT, 58 carries for 639 yards, 11.0 YPC, 73 long, 5 TD
Sneak Peak: Jerrard Randall is a force to be reckoned with as a runner. His 639 rushing yards leads all Pac-12 quarterbacks, and he’s done most of that damage behind Anu Solomon. However, Randall is more of a liability throwing the ball. Either Randall or Solomon could end up starting this weekend. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a little of both.
Husky Comparison: The Huskies don’t really have a quarterback like Randall. Because of his running ability we’ll call him a way smaller Jeff Lindquist.
#28 SO 5’10” 199-pound RB Nick Wilson
2015 stats: 121 carries for 691 yards, 5.7 YPC, 43 long, 8 TD, 4 catches for 52 yards, 13.0 YPC, 22 long
Sneak Peak: Nick Wilson has been the center of the Wildcat offense since the beginning of his freshman campaign. His 1375 rushing yards last season led all Pac-12 freshman, including Royce Freeman. He was off to a great start this season, rushing for 683 yards and eight touchdowns in the first six games before an injury held him to just eight yards over the next two weeks. Another week healthier, Wilson should be back to his usual tough-to-tackle self.
Husky Comparison: Myles Gaskin.
#1 JR 6’3” 215-pound WR Cayleb Jones
2015 stats: 35 catches for 495 yards, 14.1 YPC, 41 long, 2 TD
Sneak Peak: After leading the Wildcats in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns in 2014, junior receiver Cayleb Jones is off to another productive start. He’s a big, physical receiver that uses his size and strength to his advantage against smaller corners. He’s been Anu Solomon’s favorite target during his Wildcat career. His production, therefore, may take a hit if Jerrard Randall is behind center. Regardless, he’s worth keeping an eye on.
Husky Comparison: A more seasoned Brayden Lenius
#30 SR 5’10” 184-pound WR Johnny Jackson
2015 stats: 28 catches for 398 yards, 14.2 YPC, 70 long, 5 TD
Sneak Peak: After spending his junior year as a roll player in the secondary, Johnny Jackson has revitalized his career as a senior slot receiver. He leads the Wildcats in touchdown catches, and is second in receptions and receiving yards. Arizona has a surplus of talent in the slot, however Jackson has statistically been the most consistent producer. He’s a quick route runner that can bust the occasional big play.
Husky Comparison: Jaydon Mickens
#47 JR 6’3” 221-pound LB Jake Matthews
2015 stats: 36 total tackles, 2.0 TFL, 1.5 sacks
Sneak Peak: Losing key players, like Scooby Wright, is tough for teams to overcome. Junior linebacker Jake Matthews, however, has done an excellent job stepping in for Scooby. Now that he has fully settled into his starting role, he’ll have a big impact as a run stopper for the Wildcats.
Husky Comparison: Keishawn Bierria
#1 JR 6’0” 189-pound BANDIT Tellas Jones
2015 stats: 30 total tackles, 4.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks, 1 FF
Sneak Peak: Tellas Jones brings a unique skill set to the unique “BANDIT” position. As a sort of linebacker-safety hybrid, Jones makes his biggest impact as a contributor to the stopping the run; he leads all Wildcats in tackles for a loss. Jones’ ability to contribute in coverage, as well as stopping the run, has allowed him to emerge as one of the defense’s impact players.
Husky Comparison: There really isn’t a Husky that compares to Tellas Jones very well, in terms of both position and skill set. Because of his small frame and ability to tackle, we’ll say he’s most similar to Budda Baker.
#11 SR 6’1” 194-pound SPUR William Parks
2015 stats: 47 total tackles, 3.0 TFL, 6 PD, 2 FF
Sneak Peak: The senior “SPUR” safety, Will Parks, makes a huge impact in a variety of ways. His 47 tackles lead the team, as do his six pass breakups and two forced fumbles. He’s a playmaker that makes his presence known making hits, stopping runs, and breaking up passes. Expect to hear his name a lot Saturday night.
Husky Comparison: Budda Baker
What the Wildcat offense looks like
Regardless of who’s in at quarterback, the Wildcats like to spread out and run the ball; they have run the ball 72 more times than they have thrown it. While running is there forte, Arizona moves the ball through the air effectively. Their size on the outside, with Cayleb Jones and David Richards, and speed in the slots, with Samajie Grant, Johnny Jackson, and Nate Phillips, create mismatches for opposing defenses. Nick Wilson takes the majority of the carries for the Wildcats, picking up nearly six yards per carry. Their wealth of playmakers translates directly to incredible production, as the Wildcats lead the PAC-12 with 41.8 points per game. They’ve found the end zone 42 times on offense this season. Oregon, who has the next most touchdowns in the conference, has only 32 touchdowns. One key to their offensive success is their ability to convert on third down. Arizona’s 48.7% third down conversion rate tops all other teams in the PAC-12. The Wildcat offense is consistent and potent.
What the Wildcat defense looks like
Coach Petersen acknowledged the uniqueness of the Arizona defense. The Wildcats’ base set includes three linemen, three linebackers, two corners, a free safety, and two in-the-box safeties called “BANDIT” and “SPUR.” The in-the-box safeties bring versatility to the Arizona defense, as both can help in coverage but also often make an impact in the run game. However unique it may be, Arizona has struggled to find defensive success through eight games, allowing over 450 yards and 32 points per game. The Wildcats are last in the conference in average time of possession, largely due to their inability to get off the field on third down; their opponents are converting on third down nearly 46 percent of the time. The Wildcat pass defense may be the unit that has struggled the most, allowing 280 passing yards per game. In fact, Luke Falk lit Arizona up for 514 yards and five touchdowns. The Huskies aren’t ones to air it out 60 times a game, but the Wildcats’ struggling pass defense is something to take note of.
Keys to the game
- Stick to the run – The Wildcats’ second-ranked rushing attack in the PAC-12 carries a passing game that completes less than 60% of its passes. The Huskies have a solid run defense, however failure to commit to the run game could prove costly; Washington’s eight interceptions rank fourth in the conference. If the Wildcats can keep the Huskies on their heels with a consistent rushing attack it will limit Washington’s ability to make things happen defensively.
- Pressure Washington’s quarterback – This might be the only way to save themselves from their struggling pass defense. It is true, the Washington pass offense hasn’t been inspiring thus far, but agitating whoever is under center for Washington will help ensure those offensive inconsistencies continue.
- Win the turnover battle – Arizona’s turnover margin is exactly zero. The Wildcat offense does a good job taking care of the ball, but their defense has forced the third fewest turnovers in the PAC-12. Arizona’s defense must rise to the occasion against a Washington offense that turns the ball over at the third highest rate in the conference.
- Feed Myles Gaskin – It appears the Huskies have found a consistent threat out of the backfield with true freshman Myles Gaskin. Washington should look to keep that trend going against a Wildcat defense that allows 170 yards a game.
- Find some rhythm throwing the ball – Coach Petersen said in his press conference Monday that he would like to give Myles Gaskin the ball a lot, but success in the run game isn’t possible if the defense doesn’t respect the offense’s ability to pass. If Jake Browning or K.J. Carta-Samuels can find some consistency moving the ball downfield with their arms, Arizona will be forced to give some attention to the pass game, therefore giving Gaskin more running room.
- Stay on the field – The Huskies had less than 20 minutes of possession against Stanford last weekend. It’s hard to find a rhythm when an offense runs less than 50 plays. If Washington wants to keep up with the high-powered Wildcats, they’re going to need to stay on the field and find their groove offensively.