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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Midseason report: Arizona football positional grades

Arizona+running+back+Nick+Wilson+%2828%29+leads+Oregon+State+defenders+on+a+merry+chase+at+Arizona+Stadium+on+Saturday%2C+Oct.+10.+Wilson+finished+with+78+yards+and+two+touchdowns+on+12+carries.
Rebecca Noble

Arizona running back Nick Wilson (28) leads Oregon State defenders on a merry chase at Arizona Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 10. Wilson finished with 78 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries.

As the halfway point in the college football season has come and gone, here are positional grades on how we think the team has performed so far this season.

Quarterbacks

Grade: B-

Are we about to have a quarterback competition more than halfway through the season? Arizona football head coach Rich Rodriguez hinted at just that during Monday’s press conference, saying Jerrard Randall may get the start over Anu Solomon.

The two have very different skills, though. At points, Solomon has been phenomenal this season. Other times, not so much. The one thing he does have going is that he has yet to throw an interception. Randall uses his feet and can be deadly in open space. We will see if those traits continue this week.

Receivers

Grade: B

We heard throughout the preseason that the Arizona receiving corps was going to be deadly. Yet fans are still wondering when that statement will hold true.

Sure, Wildcat fans have seen flashes of perfection. On the other hand, Tyrell Johnson and Trey Griffey have been hurt most of the season, so that certainly doesn’t help. Cayleb Jones has hauled in 27 receptions this season for 364 yards. David Richards adds 23 catches for 352 yards, while Johnny Jackson has come out of nowhere to become one of the top receivers for Arizona. However, these receivers have dropped big-time balls in many games thus far.

Linebackers

Grade: C

The loss of All-American Scooby Wright III to injury for most of the season has been detrimental to this linebacker core. No one had started the position two weeks in a row until Jake Matthews moved in at middle linebacker. That says a lot about the defense in general.

Paul Magloire Jr. has stepped into the role of weak linebacker and has found success the past two weeks. The two commonalities this season have been Will Parks and Tellas Jones. Jones was injured last week against Colorado and, depending on the timing, that could truly hurt the Wildcats. If Parks can continue to deliver the hits like he did against Oregon State, this grade could improve.

Secondary

Grade: D-

Cornerback DaVonte’ Neal has been out the past two weeks due to injury, so Jace Whittaker and Jarvis McCall Jr. have taken over at the right corner spot. Cam Denson has been pretty consistent at the left corner position. However, the Arizona secondary has repeatedly given up huge passing plays.

The biggest example of this was the Wildcats’ two losses against Stanford and UCLA. Giving up 540 passing yards combined in two games is inexcusable.

Running backs

Grade: A-

Arizona’s backfield is one of the most unpredictable in not just the Pac-12 Conference, but across all of college football.

Nick Wilson is the undisputed leader of the core with 683 yards and eight touchdowns, but he has two backs breathing down his neck for more playing time. Orlando Bradford and Jared Baker have erupted over the past two games, replacing the wounded Wilson. Bradford ran for three touchdowns against Oregon State during Family Weekend, and Jared Baker emerged as Arizona’s savior at Colorado with 207 yards and two touchdowns. Arizona’s offense contains numerous packages that feature each running back, which separates it from other Pac-12 schools outside of UCLA and Stanford.

Offensive line

Grade: B

Arizona’s o-line has played musical positions ever since the start of fall camp. Center Carter Wood went down with a foot injury leaving the position open for Cayman Bundage to transition from guard to center, while Freddie Tagaloa keeps going back and forth between tackle and guard. Layth Friekh and Jacob Alsadek are affected by the carousel because Alsadek is normally the starting guard, unless Tagaloa is there for the week, and Friekh only plays tackle when Tagaloa is at the guard position.

The carousel of o-lineman continues, but the consistent play from the big guys in the trenches has carried the Wildcats’ running offense. The hogs have set up Arizona for 22 rushing touchdowns this season and they’re looking to raise the tempo. If only pancake blocks were a real statistic.

Special teams

Grade: C+

If one Arizona fan told another fan at the beginning of the season that Casey Skowron would evolve into one of Arizona’s best tacklers, the fan that spouted the question would most likely have been slapped. However, Skowron had a crucial tackle on a kickoff that prevented Colorado from scoring.

The only factor holding Skowron back from his special teams’ play-making ability is the fact he hasn’t made a field goal over 50 yards this season and has missed two extra points. A grade of C+ is generous considering Skowron’s range has been missing in action, but expect the tackling machine to rack up his stat sheet some more.

Defensive line

Grade: B-

This grade sounds generous considering the d-linemen haven’t produced much on the statistic sheet until recently, but expect big things out of this group.

Defensive end Reggie Gilbert’s only sack came at Stanford, and he hasn’t pressured the quarterback outside the Wildcats’ visit to the Bay Area. Rodriguez suspended Anthony Fotu this week for violating team policy. Jack Banda had two sacks against Colorado and earned the nickname “Sack Master,” according to Luca Bruno. The defensive line will have to deal with Luke Faulk, Cody Kessler and Mike Bercovici during the remainder of the season, so Arizona will have its hands full with the passing game.

The purpose of the d-line is to make the linebackers and defensive backs’ jobs as easy as possible, so getting up in the quarterback’s grill can do just that.


Follow Justin Spears and Matt Wall on Twitter.


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