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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona football looks for Wilson’s backup

Rebecca+Marie+Sasnett+%2F+The+Daily+Wildcat%0A%0AArizona+lost+38-30+against+Boise+State+during+the+Vizio+Fiesta+Bowl+at+the+University+of+Phoenix+Stadium+in+Glendale%2C+Ariz+on+Wednesday%2C+Dec.+30%2C+2014.+++
Rebecca Marie Sasnett
Rebecca Marie Sasnett / The Daily Wildcat Arizona lost 38-30 against Boise State during the Vizio Fiesta Bowl at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz on Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2014.

Arizona football has seen plenty of running back Nick Wilson, so they’re auditioning for his backup.

Wilson ran for 1,375 yards on 236 carries, an average of 5.8 yards per attempt, as a true freshman last season. He scored 16 touchdowns.

The Wildcats are limiting Wilson’s touches this spring as he recovers from 2014 and while they try to build more depth.

“We know Nick,” said associate head coach Calvin Magee. “He had a long, successful year; we know what he can do. So, we wanted to look at the other guys.”

The eligibility of Terris Jones-Grigsby, Wilson’s backup, ran out. Jones-Grigsby ran for 567 yards in 121 carries, a 4.6 average, and three touchdowns.

Behind those two on Arizona’s 2014 rushing chart were two quarterbacks, including last season’s third-stringer, Jerrard Randall, who only played in five games and rushed for 110 yards on 15 carries.

Jared Baker is the returning reserve running back with the most yards. He had 99 yards on 25 attempts and two touchdowns last season, after tearing his ACL in 2013.

Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said Baker has probably made the biggest strides.

Magee, who coaches running backs, said Baker has had a phenomenal spring.

“I’ve been pleased,” Magee said about the running backs. “In the spring, you want to see improvements and some of the smaller details stuff, and I feel like the backs, as a group, have done that. They’ve improved every day, and that’s what you want.”

Only four running backs had rushed for more yards than kicker Casey Skowron last year, who ran the ball once.

“We always just want to show what we can do,” redshirt freshman running back Jonathan Haden said. “Nick’s a great running back, and we already know what he can do. Nick’s a baller, so we’re all just trying to show what we can bring to the team, and hopefully, we can get as many guys as we can out there — just to help us win.”

The other big development for the running backs in the spring has been Jonathan Haden’s move back to the position, after playing in 12 games as a receiver last season.

“We brought him in as a running back, but we really didn’t really have to use him at running back with the emergence of Nick, and we still had Jared come in a little a bit,” Magee said. “Terris did such a good job last year that we didn’t have to use Haden, but now he’s back to where his love is.”

Rodriguez said Jonathan Haden was doing well in the spring until he was limited by an injury.

Still, he is excited to be back at running back.

“It’s great,” he said with a laugh. “It feels great being back in my element. It just feels way more natural, and I can do what I’ve been doing my whole life now.”

Magee said he’s excited for him, that he’s doing really well and that part of the reason they recruited him was his versatility.

Jonathan Haden and Magee said that playing receiver helped him learn the offense as a true freshman.

He comes from a famous football family. Three of his brothers, Joe (Florida), Josh (Boston College) and Jordan (Toledo) played college football.

Joe Haden is an All-Pro cornerback for the Cleveland Browns and signed a five-year $68 million contract last year.

“Every day I talk to them, I call them, tell them how excited I am to be back at running back,” Jonathan Haden said, “and I just feel like this season is looking really good.”

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Follow James Kelley on Twitter.

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