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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

The future is bright

I’ve always been told to stay in the present and address the future as it comes, but an ambitious person like myself has a hard time not thinking about what lies ahead.

My most recent glimpse into my crystal ball involves the Arizona football program. While standing on the sideline in the waning minutes of Arizona’s 43-38 victory over Stanford, I couldn’t help but get a little caught up in the moment.

“”This team is for real,”” I said out loud to whoever was within earshot. There’s a lot to like about this year’s Wildcat squad — a lot of talent, great chemistry and, of course, Nick Foles.

Foles looked like a seasoned NFL veteran on Saturday. He never backed down, he never panicked and he never ducked out of the spotlight. His big arm and admirable demeanor will go a long way toward helping his future, and it will also help the Wildcats’ future.

But the future is a funny thing in college sports. A program that rests its fate on the shoulders of one player has, at absolute best, a four-year tour with said player. More realistically, a college player is only able to carry a team for one or two years — especially at a position as demanding and difficult as quarterback.

But Foles is only a sophomore, which means that he could potentially be under center for UA head coach Mike Stoops and company for two full years after this one.

It got me thinking — how good can this team be for the next few years with a face-of-the-program-type QB in Foles?

I looked at the roster to see what underclassmen could return next season, and my jaw nearly dropped. Just take a minute to read this list of players who are either starting right now or receive significant playing time.

Running backs Nic Grigsby, Keola Antolin and Greg Nwoko; receivers Delashaun Dean, Juron Criner, Bug Wright, David Roberts and David Douglas; tight end Rob Gronkowski; offensive linemen Colin Baxter, Conan Amituanai and Vaughn Dotsy; defensive linemen Brooks Reed, Ricky Elmore and Lolomana Mikaele; and defensive backs Trevin Wade and Robert Golden.

I don’t think I need to tell you how staggering that is — just reading that list is physically taxing. But rest your eyes for a moment, because there’s more.

Senior linebackers Vuna Tuihalamaka, Xavier Kelley and Sterling Lewis, along with free safety Cam Nelson, will all be missed when they graduate after this season, but current freshmen Jake Fischer, R.J. Young, Trevor Erno and Adam Hall are waiting in the wings and more than capable of picking up where the seniors left off.

And those injuries that have seriously hurt the Wildcats this season could turn out to be a blessing for next year. Gronkowski, Reed and Dean — UA’s best options to enter the NFL Draft as juniors — have all missed time this season due to injury and would boost their draft stock by returning for a senior season.

Now, all that being said, I realize that there is a lot of time between now and next season. There are plenty of games still to be played and there’s no telling what could happened between now and then.

Even thinking about asking a current player or coach how good the Wildcats could be next season would be foolish — you’ll be blacklisted faster than Seinfeld’s Elaine was from Hop Sing’s restaurant after complaining about her Chinese food — but it certainly is something worth considering.

What it boils down to is this: the Arizona football program is in fantastic shape. The number of fans that have been so quick to criticize Stoops over the years is shrinking by the day and the number of fans jumping on Arizona football’s bandwagon is growing.

And if you’re into bandwagons, I’ve got some room on mine. It’s called “”Arizona Football: 2010 Rose Bowl Champions.””

All are welcome.

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