Arizona football notes: Buckner doesn't feel overshadowed by Hill
Larry Hogan / Arizona Daily Wildcat
Arizona’s Austin Hill was named as a semifinalist for the Fred Biletnikoff Award, given to the nation’s top receiver, but head coach Rich Rodriguez said another Wildcat also deserves to be in the conversation.
Senior Dan Buckner has been quietly consistent all season, and although Hill has overshadowed his numbers, Buckner’s two-touchdown game Saturday against Colorado showed his big game potential.
“I think when you talk about guys that should be nominated for postseason honors, I think both of those guys are very deserving,” Rodriguez said. “I’m really proud of [Buckner]. He’s what you want out of you’re seniors, to have their best year and he’s done a good job.”
Buckner is second on the team with receptions (57), receiving yards (716), and touchdowns (five) while Hill leads all three categories. Playing second fiddle to a player in the running for the Biletnikoff isn’t anything to be ashamed of, but Buckner entered the season as the Wildcats leading receiver and presumable No. 1 option.
“I feel like I’ve left some plays on the field,” Buckner said.
“You know there’s always room for improvement.”
While Buckner trails Hill in all major categories, he said it wasn’t a case of being outdone by the sophomore, but rather a tandem where the two receivers feed off of each other.
“I don’t feel overshadowed by Hill at all,” Buckner said. “I was just talking the other day, I was like, ‘I don’t think Rich Rod’s had so much production at wide out.’ You know, Austin’s my partner in crime. I don’t think I’d have as much success if Austin didn’t have his success and visa-versa.”
Last weekend with backup B.J. Denker starting at quarterback, both Hill and Buckner had three catches, as the UA leaned on the run more. But Buckner made his receptions count, scoring on two of them, and he was the only receiver to reach the end zone in Arizona’s 56-31 victory.
The injury bug has not been kind to the Arizona offensive line this season. Senior starters Kyle Quinn and Trace Biskin missed multiple games, left guard Chris Putton suffered a concussion against UCLA and backup tackle Lene Maiava tore his ACL early in the season.
The Wildcats have been forced to shift different players all around the line, and senior Shane Zink has made a name for himself at doing exactly that.
“I think he’s played every position but center,” Rodriguez said. “We’ve needed that.”
Zink has started three games this season and appeared all over the line, and while he said the system implemented by Arizona isn’t overly complicated, it isn’t exactly a simple switch to move around the line.
“I’m not going to lie to you, it’s not an easy thing to do,” Zink said. “It is something that, I think, is important, and I’m glad to be one of the O-lineman to be able to do that.”
Coming into the season Zink only had three starts under his belt.
All of the injuries forced him into several different starting spots, but he said his role is just to be the utility man.
“It’s hard to say that my role is anything but someone behind the scenes. I’m not a big guy that [says], ‘Give me attention’ or ‘Do this or do that for me.’”
“I just want the best five out there, whether I’m there or whether I’m not there. I just want Ka’Deem [Carey] to have a good game, I want Matt [Scott] to have a good game … That’s really all it’s about and I’m sure the other O-linemen will tell you the same thing.”
With only two regular season games left in his career, plus a likely bowl invitation, all that matters is that he’s helping the team to win, he said. The 6-foot-6, 314-pound Zink would play defensive back if it would help the team to win, it doesn’t matter to him.
“If that’s going to help the team, then yeah I’ll do it,” Zink said. “If being a water boy is going to help the team [I’ll do it]. It’s something that I think is engrained in our team.”
Miller might be medically redshirted
Senior Terrence Miller burst onto the scene this year with a six catch, 80-yard game against Toledo that included the game-winning reception in overtime. After being lost in the shuffle the year prior with only 11 catches, it looked like Miller was prime to break out as a consistent receiving option.
But his injuries started to pile up, starting with the game against South Carolina State. Since Miller has only played in four games this season, Rodriguez said he is seeking a medical redshirt.
“We were hoping at a time that there might be [a chance he’d play], if he got back for two or three games left in the regular season,” Rodriguez said. “But that doesn’t look like the case.”
Miller had 13 receptions for 143 yards and two touchdowns this season.