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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

A look at the top storylines as Arizona Wildcats spring football kicks off

The Arizona football team kicked off its spring practices Monday, and an array of questionssurround both the Wildcats and first-year head coach Rich Rodriguez. Here’s a look at the top five storylines during Rodriguez’s first spring in Tucson:

Can Morrison transition back to QB?

After playing scout-team quarterback during his redshirt year in 2009, junior Richard Morrison spent the last three seasons as a slot receiver and occasional punt returner. Arizona’s backup quarterback will take meaningful snaps in 2012 — it’s a fact of life in Rodriguez’s spread-option offense. If the 5-foot-11, 183-pounder can give Arizona a competent backup, the Wildcats can at least hold steady if senior QB Matt Scott is forced out of the game for a few series. But if the Arizona offense has to go into shutdown mode with Scott on the sidelines, the defense will get abused while the offense puts up 3-and-out after 3-and-out.

How will Arizona’s tall wideouts be used?

It’s no secret that Arizona is going to run the ball — a lot — in 2012. But lurking on the outside are two very physically gifted receivers in senior Dan Buckner, who stands 6-foot-4, and redshirt sophomore Austin Hill, who stands 6-foot-3. Both have been productive in the past, but will Arizona throw the ball enough for them both to get touches? Scott showed his much-improved ability to throw in 2010, but Rodriguez’s teams often run the ball more than 60 percent of the time. Will adjustments be made to get Buckner and Hill the ball or to use them as the major red zone threats they are? Will they be relegated to blocking and getting two or three touches per game? It’s too early to tell.

Can Scott get a grasp of Rodriguez’s schemes?

Scott made huge strides while replacing the injured Nick Foles for a pair of games in 2010, but the 6-foot-3, 197-pound quarterback is now learning a new scheme and he’s without former quarterbacks coach Frank Scelfo. Arizona had some zone-read principles in its offense under Mike Stoops, but Scott hasn’t used the scheme extensively at the college level. If Scott can grasp the offense early and know it well enough to make split-second decisions come September, the Arizona offense should be dangerous. But if he struggles with the schemes and decision-making, Arizona’s season could be over before it starts.

Are the Wildcats healthy?

Arizona was crippled by injuries last spring, with three defensive starters — corner Jonathan McKnight, safety Adam Hall and linebacker Jake Fischer — missing all or most of the season, along with backup running back Greg Nwoko and reserve defensive lineman Willie Mobley. McKnight was having the best spring of anyone on the defense, and if he can return to form, he and Shaq Richardson could be a solid 1-2 punch. Fischer brings experience to a linebacking corps that lost its top two producers in Derek Earls and Paul Vassallo, and Hall is the physical presence the UA secondary lacked last season.

Will Carey break out?

Sophomore running back Ka’Deem Carey had about as impressive a freshman season as anyone could have hoped, rushing for 425 yards and six touchdowns. After the departure of Keola Antolin, Carey should get first crack at the No. 1 running back spot, giving him a chance to flourish in Rodriguez’s run-heavy offense. Scott is a good enough runner to keep teams from keying on Carey, so the sophomore will have even more of a chance to show the big-play ability he flashed last year.

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