Each Monday, Wednesday and Friday, the Eye on College Football examines what current hot topic the fans of one BCS team are obsessing over -- rationally or not. Today's team: the Arizona Wildcats.
What they're talking about is ... the offensive backfield. No longer will Arizona be able to fall back on Ka'Deem and his carries to provide the backbone of the offense. Carey's tireless workload (top 10 in rushing attempts per game as a sophomore and the nation's leader in that category last season) and ability took pressure off the quarterback and helped propel the team to back-to-back eight-win seasons. Arizona has several question marks heading into the 2014 season, but the fans are most concerned with the players set to occupy the nucleus of Rich Rodriguez's up-tempo offense: the offensive backfield.
As it stands, three players have stood out as the most likely options to replace Carey as the starting running back. Terris Jones-Grigsby, a 5-foot-7, 182-pound redshirt senior, has the most experience. A pair of redshirt freshmen, 220-pound Zach Green and 183-pound Pierre Cormier, have been described as a thunder-and-lightning combination. Running backs coach Calvin Magee had both with Carey. Some combination of all three -- or four, depending on the status of true freshman Jonathan Haden -- will have to make up for Carey's absence.
The quarterback competition is even less defined. Rodriguez said he considers seven players to be in the race for the starting job now, and as many as five -- Jesse Scroggins, Anu Solomon, Texas transfer Connor Brewer, juco signee Jerrard Randall and Nick Isham -- have taken reps with the first-string offense in spring practice.
What they're saying is ... nice things about Randall, less so for Scroggins. Jesse Scroggins, ex-Southern Cal and El Camino College quarterback, lost the job to B.J. Denker a year ago in part because of a foot surgery in the spring. Scroggins has received compliments for a renewed commitment after the tough 2013 season, but he is far from a fan favorite among the Wildcat faithful.
• On Jarrard Randall and Anu Solomon: "I heard this.......It may be quickness. Randall is fast as well as 'quick' and that stands out. Gets rid of the ball. His arm is good. He's better at 'in' and 'fly' routes than he is on 'outs' which he will get....it's a trick to hit the spot on sideline outs but he is repping hard. Solomon is coming along very steadily too."
• On whether to count out Scroggins: "Have already counted him out. Going to have to see 10,000% improvement to even entertain the thought of him making the top 3."
• This tweet appeared from an account apparently for Northeast Mississippi Community College football. The news was not verified, but it did spark some of the chatter mentioned above.
S/O to former Tiger Jerrard Randall, listed as the #1 QB for the Arizona Wildcats this spring! Proud of him! pic.twitter.com/IwzZdLALlQ— Northeast Football (@NEtigerfootball) April 1, 2014
Jarrard is definitely considered to be a contender for the starting job, but coach Rodriguez did say this week that "everything's a cloud" to the talented quarterback who is the "last one to the party" in the competition right now.
What we think is ... don't be surprised to see multiple quarterbacks against UNLV on Aug. 29. It does not sound like RichRod has any plans of naming front-runners, much less a starting quarterback, before the end of spring practice. Even if a rotation is established in fall camp, Rodriguez could use the first two games of the season -- UNLV and Texas-San Antonio, both at home -- as the final opportunity for one of these untested quarterbacks to separate himself in a game scenario.
The depth at wide receiver -- don't forget that 1,300-yard receiver Austin Hill is back -- and running back will give Arizona the ability to move players around the offense. Jones-Grigsby, Green and Cormier all have different running styles and Rodriguez thinks the Wildcats could use eight or nine wide receivers in the regular rotation. That kind of mix-and-match approach at the skill positions could take some time to figure out, particularly as it relates to the quarterback who best fits the lineup. With three nonconference games to start the schedule, it wouldn't be surprising to see the quarterback competition run into the start of the 2014 season.