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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Versus column: Arizona running back competition reopened

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Freshman running back Nick Wilson (28) runs with the ball during UA’s 58-13 win against UNLV on Aug. 29 at Arizona Stadium. Wilson started the second game of the season and put his name in the Arizona record books after he rushed for 174 yards and one touchdown.

Team Terris

After he rushed for over 100 yards in back-to-back games, it seems everyone’s gaga over Arizona football freshman running back Nick Wilson.

The true freshman is the Wildcats’ best rookie running back since Nick Grigsby ran for 704 yards in 2007. Ka’Deem Carey only rushed for 425 yards as a freshman.

In fact, Wilson’s 30 carries against UTSA matched the freshman record held by Grigsby.

However, it is Grigsby’s brother, redshirt senior Terris Jones-Grigsby who should be the Wildcats’ No. 1 back.

In the season opener, Jones-Grigsby ran for 124 yards on 13 attempts and 9.5 yards per carry but missed the UTSA game with an ankle injury. Wilson has 278 yards this year but is averaging two yards less per carry.

Jones-Grigsby’s yardage came against a less-than-impressive UNLV side, but Wilson’s came against them after the Rebels’ defense had been worn down and against a program that is just slightly older than my iPhone 4s.

Jones-Grigsby’s running style is more conducive to success in the rugged Pac-12 Conference. Wilson so far has shown he can out-run players the Power 5 conferences didn’t want.

Wilson is speedy and was recruited to run track in college as well, but Jones-Grigsby isn’t exactly lead-footed. He ran track in high school and while against UNLV he didn’t show the same kind of speed as Wilson, he was fast enough to grab chunks of yardage.

Jones-Grigsby’s running style, a little back slipping away from defensive linemen and linebackers and out running defensive backs, is very reminiscent of Grigsby.

Also, while Wilson is nicknamed “Ka’Nick,” it is Jones-Grigsby who looks like Carey on gridiron. Jones-Grigsby runs with that same kind of anger that the coaches often praised about Carey. He runs as if he is offended that one or two defenders think they can bring him down.

Maybe the holes in the defense will be as big when the Wildcats play California, Washington State or Colorado, but for the most part, once Pac-12 play begins, Arizona will need a back with an aggressive running style that will make holes in a defense and one experienced enough to see them.

Team Nick

Losing a player as talented as star running back Ka’Deem Carey would, have debilitated the majority of college football programs around the nation, but not Arizona.

Arizona football head coach Rich Rodriguez planned ahead and stocked his team with several capable running backs ready to contribute. Among those who have seen extended carries so far are redshirt senior Terris Jones-Grigsby, true freshman Nick Wilson and redshirt junior Jared Baker.

Of the trio, Jones-Grigsby and Wilson have seen the most work and have each started one game. Jones-Grigsby was the opening-week starter and looked to have the position under control.

That was until he went down and Wilson performed spectacularly in his first career start against UTSA last week. Wilson finished the game with 174 rushing yards and one touchdown on 30 carries.

“I was really proud of him,” Rodriguez said in a press release after the game. “From a mental standpoint he was there … Nick’s got a great future. He runs really, really hard and he’s still learning.”

In doing so, his rushing yardage total was good enough for the fourth-highest all-time by an Arizona freshman and he created a controversy as to who should start at running back.

Jones-Grigsby played well in his first start, but Wilson provides a more all-around style that compliments Rodriguez’s offense better. That running style allows him to power through defenders, as we saw last Thursday, and sprint past defenders in a way that Jones-Grigsby just can’t replicate.

Earlier in fall camp, Arizona associate head coach, co-offensive coordinator and running backs coach Calvin Magee said he loves Wilson’s attacking nature. At Arizona football media day, Wilson reiterated much of the same.

“I like to think I’m a hardworking, motivated and dedicated player who does what he’s asked to do and does it in a timely manner,” Wilson said. “I just do what I’m supposed to do for the most part.”

Doing what he does in a timely matter has given Wilson a 7.5 yards per carry average and per game, he averages 139 rushing yards.

To put up those kind of numbers as a freshman is remarkable and something that not even Carey did his freshman year.

—Follow James Kelley @jameskelley520 and Roberto Payne @HouseofPayne555

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