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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Offense ready to take control

Michael Ignatov / Arizona Daily Wildcat

University of Arizona meets Arizona State University in an NCAA mens football game in Arizona Stadium, Tucson, Ariz., Nov. 28, 2009. Arizona up 14-0 at the half
Michael Ignatov
Michael Ignatov / Arizona Daily Wildcat University of Arizona meets Arizona State University in an NCAA men’s football game in Arizona Stadium, Tucson, Ariz., Nov. 28, 2009. Arizona up 14-0 at the half

It’s only March, but the Arizona football team’s offense is already the leader in the locker room and is expected to be the team’s strongest asset in 2010.

“”We have a bunch of guys coming back and we should be better,”” said outside receivers coach Dave Nichol. “”We’re always prepared to go score a bunch of points. We can be better because we can do more stuff.””

After a strong 2009 season, the unit returns just about everyone in 2010. The Wildcats lost just two starters from last season, but considering the frequency of injuries in 2009 and the different personnel packages, Arizona has more than 11 offensive players who received significant playing time coming back.

“”I think the one thing that helps us on offense is that we’re gaining confidence,”” Nichol said. “”I don’t care if you’re playing against kindergarteners or a Pac-10 defense, if you complete balls you’re going to gain confidence, and that’s part of what’s held us back the last few years.””

The skill positions are oozing with talent. There isn’t a defined No. 1 receiver just yet, but Delashaun Dean and Juron Criner both have the potential to be among the best in the Pacific 10 Conference.

Criner broke through last season by showing up in big games — see versus Oregon and at USC — and became quarterback Nick Foles’ go-to guy. Dean is an all-around talent who has the size, athleticism and toughness to be a top player.

Other receivers include savvy marker-movers David Roberts and David Douglas and speedster Bug Wright. Youngsters Gino Crump and Terrence Miller are also expected to contribute this season.

“”I’ve finally got an old group (of receivers), and that goes hand-in-hand with making plays,”” Nichol said.

Nic Grigsby, Keola Antolin and Greg Nwoko are all back and healthy at running back, and could see more carries this season considering new co-coordinators Bill Bedenbaugh and Seth Littrell have a running background.

And then there’s Foles. The righty was a revelation last year, lifting Arizona out of an offensive slump after he was given the keys to the car in week four against Oregon State and went on to have one of the best seasons in the conference.

But that doesn’t mean that he’s going to coast into next season. Especially if new quarterbacks coach Frank Scelfo has anything to say about it.

“”Coach Scelfo has been working with me on my footwork and my mechanics,”” Foles said. “”A lot of times I do a good job of keeping my feet moving, but sometimes my feet will be pointing one way and I’ll throw it the other way. We’re just trying to keep my feet pretty much on a swivel, on line with my throwing.””

The job belongs to Foles — no one is questioning that — but Matt Scott is waiting in the wings.

You remember him — he was the opening day starter last season before losing his post to Foles.

Scott struggled to get much going through the air during his three starts, but he did show his athleticism by picking up big chunks of yardage on the ground. His efforts on the ground were good enough to give coaches enough confidence to design Wildcat-type packages for him late in the season.

Expect to see more of that this year, too.

“”We’ll get him involved and get him an opportunity to show what he can do,”” said UA head coach Mike Stoops. “”He’s going to have a lot of opportunities. That’ll be his chance to show us what he can do and show that he’s matured throughout the year. He’s one of our most talented players. You have to keep him involved.””

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