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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

3-headed monster key to UA’s success

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Will Ferguson
Will Ferguson / Arizona Daily Wildcat UA Men’s football

Over the last eight years under Mike Stoops, the Arizona football team has been armed with a few prominent signal callers. In Willie Tuitama and Nick Foles, arguably the two best quarterbacks in program history, the Wildcats became a pass-heavy offense without much of a focus on the running game.

But under first-year coach Rich Rodriguez, things are going to look drastically different.

“I kinda knew coming in here (with Rodriguez) that we were going to run the ball,” quarterback Matt Scott said. “I felt like that was kinda our weakness a few years prior, we weren’t a good run team. We passed the ball a lot.”

To call it a weakness would be an understatement. In 2011, Arizona ran for 1,134 yards, good for 114th in the nation, and 17 touchdowns as a team. Keola Antolin led the UA with 568 yards and five touchdowns.

In 2007, Rodriguez’s final year coaching at West Virginia, former Mountaineer running back Steve Slaton ran for 1,051 yards and 17 touchdowns all on his own. Not only that, but WVU’s quarterback, Pat White, ran for 1,335 yards and 14 touchdowns. Noel Devine ran for 627 yards and six touchdowns — as a backup.

“I was watching them (West Virginia and Michigan),” sophomore running back Ka’Deem Carey said. “I just love the way they just put the running back in great position to make a play and the lineman opening up holes for the back.”

Those numbers are a bit bloated since Rodriguez ran the ball, on average, nearly 70 percent of the time while at West Virginia, and in 2011, the Wildcats only ran the ball 36 percent of the time. Going forward, while numbers that are on par with WVU’s are a little out of reach initially, expect the Wildcats to cater more toward that style of offense.

It’s not as if they don’t have the personnel or the talent.

“The guys that have played like Ka’Deem and Daniel Jenkins and Taimi (Tutogi), you can see some of their experience and some of their ability come through,” Rodriguez said. “I think coach (co-offensive coordinator Calvin) Magee has been pretty pleased with that — but as I said everyone is a rookie in this system. We’ll see how they progress.”

Carey, a Tucson native, is likely to be the one at the top of the depth chart after a solid freshman season where he ran for 425 yards and six touchdowns on 91 carries. He got fans especially excited about his future as a Wildcat after his performance in the season finale against Arizona State, where his 139 total yards and a touchdown were a key factor in the emotional victory.

But, as Rodriguez said, he likes having more than one running back who can contribute to his run-heavy offense.

“If we got five we can win with, we’ll play all five,” Rodriguez said. “We use two running backs, sometimes three, at the same time so I hope we can find a lot of running backs. That’s been a position I’m pretty pleased with, and we thought that coming in, but we still got a long way to go.”

In addition to Carey, the Wildcats also have the speedy junior tandem of Jenkins and Kylan Butler. They both didn’t get many reps in last season’s offense — Jenkins had 176 yards on 31 carries, Butler had 29 yards on six carries — but Scott is excited about his backfield mates.

“Those guys are crazy,” Scott said. “All three of those guys are running great, they’re gonna have a great year I’m telling you that now. (The three-headed monster) That’s what we’re going to call them.”

On Saturday, Arizona went to Glendale, Ariz., for an open scrimmage and the trio of running backs stood out performance-wise. Jenkins led the way with 81 rushing yards and two touchdowns, Butler had 29 yards and two scores and Carey contributed 30 yards of his own.

“We love running out there together. During the scrimmage we was like, ‘Man, we all got all our different styles.’ You got Arizona (Carey), I got the Bay Area and Daniel got L.A.,” Butler said. “We don’t try and take from each other … we stay in our lane. We all can really complement each other.”

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