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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    ‘Cats offensive line cured of hiccups

    UA running back Nic Grigsby, 5, breaks a tackle in Saturdays 48-14 win over Washington at Arizona Stadium. Grigsbys rushing assault was enhanced by a stellar UA offensive line, which lifted the Wildcats to a perfect 2-0 in the Pacific 10 Conference.
    UA running back Nic Grigsby, 5, breaks a tackle in Saturday’s 48-14 win over Washington at Arizona Stadium. Grigsby’s rushing assault was enhanced by a stellar UA offensive line, which lifted the Wildcats to a perfect 2-0 in the Pacific 10 Conference.

    When Arizona center Blake Kerley was lost for the season in the Pacific 10 Conference opener at UCLA Sept. 20, the Wildcats were forced to make crucial changes to the offensive line.

    Colin Baxter was moved from left guard to center for the remainder of the season, junior college transfer Mike Diaz took his spot in the vacant guard position and senior tackle James Tretheway saw some action. Without Kerley, it was believed that the offensive line would surely need more than a bye week to settle down with the new personnel.

    So much for that theory.

    In Arizona’s 48-14 victory over Washington at Arizona Stadium Saturday, the offensive line didn’t hiccup. The players knew their assignments, quarterback Willie Tuitama had plenty of time in the pocket and running back Nic Grigsby and Co. ran wild, all thanks to the offensive line.

    “”I thought playing three new starters on the offensive line for a big part of the game was exciting to see,”” said Arizona head coach Mike Stoops. “”Mike Diaz, Colin Baxter and James Tretheway all step in and play very, very well. So that was good to see and you can see how depth really helps you.””

    A simple gaze at Arizona’s statistics sheet from Saturday’s win over the Huskies reveals how well the line played.

    The Wildcats rushed for 256 total yards, an impressive feat considering the Arizona offense usually resorts to a pass-first scheme. The only issues the Wildcats had were protection breakdowns that allowed Washington’s defensive end Daniel Te’o-Nesheim to record all three of the Huskies’ sacks.

    All things considered, Arizona’s offensive line has remained optimistic after the loss of one of the most important figures of the unit, Kerley.

    “”(The game) was faster than practice, obviously, but I adjusted to it really well and it came together for me,”” said Diaz, who is still settling into the starter role. “”I think coming in expecting (Washington) to run a lot more blitzes than they did, I think we did fairly well adjusting to their game plan.””

    Ask some of the regular fixtures on the line how the team handled the changes and they’d reveal that they were certainly pleased with the unit’s production Saturday.

    “”I think we did a great job,”” said senior tackle Eben Britton. “”We were able to move the ball up and down the field well and I think we gave Willie a good amount of time for the most part. Mike Diaz stepped in and looked comfortable, I think, and did a great job, and that’s exciting.

    “”I think it was a pretty smooth transition,”” Britton added.

    Even sophomore running back Nic Grigsby was pleased with what he saw in front of him Saturday.

    “”One hundred percent,”” Grigsby said when asked how he would grade the line’s performance. “”You can see all the backs – not just me – were averaging a good amount of yards and Willie wasn’t pressured, really.””

    Grigsby provides huge boost to ‘Cats

    The common misconception of Arizona’s offensive scheme is the lack a solid run game.

    While the pass-first mentality holds true for the Wildcats, Nic Grigsby’s uncanny knack of turning small runs into big gains has truly broadened Arizona’s offense.

    And it has translated into points.

    Grigsby has eight rushing touchdowns through five games this season, including at least one in each of Arizona’s games.

    “”I am just trying to help our team out. If I am being a threat, then they are going to take it away from me, and we are going to open it up somewhere else.”” Grigsby said.

    Perhaps the most impressive thing Grigsby has is his gift for cutting back and creating room to run.

    While the coaching staff has been tough on Grigsby to hit those specific holes, he can often be seen using his vision to cut back and turn an average run into a big play.

    “”It is something I have been doing since I was little,”” Grigsby said. “”I always used to try and fool around and juke around when I was running when I was younger, and it just carried on.””

    Though the coaching staff surely doesn’t want to tamper with Grigsby’s unique vision, it still catches their eyes.

    “”Grigs is a slasher and he has real good speed, and his vision is real good and he does have the ability to see things,”” said running backs coach Dana Dimel. “”He has been working on the fundamentals of things, really working on the fundamentals extremely hard, and making the progression from being freshman to a sophomore and the fundamentals are really starting to show up, and he’s starting to have greater vision and bring the things he does best to the table, which is his speed.””

    Injury updates

    Arizona has been fortunate enough to avoid the injury bug outside of center Blake Kerley, but the Wildcats still have a handful of players who are somewhat banged up.

    UA cornerback Devin Ross injured his groin after returning an interception in the second half of Saturday’s game and right tackle Adam Grant broke a finger on his left hand.

    Stoops said in his weekly press conference Monday that reserve quarterback Matt Scott had sustained a concussion Saturday night, but none of the injuries should affect any of the players’ playing time.

    “”I don’t anticipate any changes on either side right now,”” Stoops said.

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