College football never ends, and during the next few weeks teams will be getting ready for the 2013 season in their spring practice sessions. Here's a look at the Arizona Wildcats and what they'll be working on this spring.
Spring practice begins: March 5
Spring game: April 13
2012 record: 8-5
Returning starters: 17 (seven offense, 10 defense)
In his first year in Tucson, coach Rich Rodriguez improved the Wildcats by four wins over their 2011 total, showing that he hasn't lost the touch that once made him such a hot coaching prospect. Arizona's offense improved by leaps and bounds, though its defense struggled as much as ever. With underrated quarterback Matt Scott graduating and the nation's leading rusher Ka'Deem Carey in legal trouble, Rodriguez might have to rely a bit more this fall on his oft-maligned defense, which returns 10 starters.
The Least You Should Know About Arizona This Spring
-- This team needs a quarterback. Matt Scott's 4,126 yards of total offense is gone, and there's not a whole lot of experience left to replace him. Senior B.J. Denker started one game in Scott's stead last fall and he'll probably get the bulk of the spring reps. Junior college transfer (and former USC Trojan) Jesse Scroggins was expected to compete for the job, but he'll sit out the spring due to foot surgery. Redshirt freshman Javelle Evans, an exciting lefty, is a good fit for Rich Rod's scheme and will get a hard look, too. It could well be that no starter is named until the fall when Scroggins is finally healthy and touted freshman Anu Solomon enters the fray. If past history is any indication, Rodriguez won't be afraid to play a youngster at quarterback.
-- Also, some tailback depth. While All-American junior tailback Ka'Deem Carey returns and will take part in spring drills, he's treading on thin ice after getting into legal trouble in the offseason. Carey really doesn't need to take a single snap in spring ... so why get him hurt? But Rodriguez will do well to find some guys who can not only back up Carey but can possibly step in to replace him should he implode off the field again. Sophomore Jared Baker carried the ball only 20 times last fall, and he'll need to step up his game, as will senior Kylan Butler and redshirt freshman J.T. Washington. This is another position where the depth may not be settled until August, when dynamic freshman Pierre Cormier arrives.
-- The front seven has to toughen up. Arizona was atrocious stopping the run last fall, giving up an average of 206 yards and 4.6 yards per carry. The good news is that the entire front seven is back. With a full year under their belts learning defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel's schemes, this group can only get better, right? Eight of Arizona's top 10 tacklers last year were in the secondary, which should tell you something about the quality of the front seven.
-- The offensive line must find a center. Arizona scored a coup in the offseason with the hiring of former Cal offensive line coach Jim Michalczik. Now he must replace two starters up front, including center Kyle Quinn. What's more, Addison Bachman, who started four games for Quinn when he was hurt last fall, also graduated. Rodriguez plans on having all the offensive linemen learn how to snap during the spring, but a starter may not emerge until the fall when junior-college transfer Steven Gurrola is added to the mix.