This weekend a look into Arizona football's future
Larry Hogan / Arizona Daily Wildcat
For Arizona, consider this weekend a look into the UA’s future.
I know, there are still three games to be played and the Wildcats are still fighting for a bowl berth.
But with quarterback Matt Scott almost certainly missing Saturday’s game against Colorado due to a concussion (he’s listed as doubtful on the weekly injury report), B.J. Denker will get the start.
As a fifth-year senior, Scott will run out of eligibility at the end of the season and Denker is a candidate to become his replacement next year.
Colorado is not a good team by any means. The Buffaloes are 1-8, 1-5 Pac-12. They lost to an FCS opponent in Sacramento State and have lost their last five games by a combined 212 points.
But without Scott, nothing is guaranteed, and that uncertainty might be a weekly thing next season if Denker is named the starting quarterback next year. His stiffest competition will be from 2013 recruit Anu Solomon, a four-star quarterback from Las Vegas, and converted receiver Richard Morrison. It’s highly unlikely Rodriguez would start a freshman, though, and Morrison is even more unproven than Denker at the position.
Luckily, the Wildcats really won’t be losing much talent to graduation. Receiver Dan Buckner, center Kyle Quinn, guard Trace Biskin and fullback Taimi Tutogi will be the only significant losses, and the Wildcats already have the talent in place to offset at least the losses of Biskin and Buckner.
Prior to coming to Arizona, head coach Rich Rodriguez was always known as a run first, ask questions later type of head coach, running the ball as much as 70 percent of the time as head coach at West Virginia.
Thanks to Scott’s abilities as a passer, coupled with the talents of Buckner and Austin Hill at receiver, Rodriguez has leaned more toward the pass, and it’s paid off. Arizona has the eighth-best passing offense in the nation. But, without Scott, the Wildcats might start relying more on the legs of running back Ka’Deem Carey.
“Like they say, the ball only weighs a few ounces,” Rodriguez said. “He can carry it 30 times a game. He’s a strong guy, but it really depends on how they play us.”
Carey is third in the Pac-12 with 1,015 rushing yards and second with 13 touchdowns, so that might be a good thing — and Denker does bring speed to the position (he runs a 4.40 40-yard dash, according to Scout.com). Still, he’s a bit undersized at 6-foot-3, 177 pounds.
“Vanilla Vick” hasn’t really shown much in spot duty this season, but it’s hard to judge him based on playing time at the end of blowouts.
He is 13-of-23 with 123 yards and one touchdown. When Scott exited the Oregon game on Sept. 22, Denker stepped in and quickly threw an interception that was brought back for a touchdown, but Arizona was already losing 42-0 at that point.
A week earlier against South Carolina State, Denker played the entire fourth quarter and went 6-of-10 for 78 yards and touchdown, but the Wildcats were winning 42-0 at that point.
And finally, last week after Scott suffered the concussion late in the third quarter, Denker came in and immediately fumbled the ball away, and completed 2-of-5 passes for 12 yards. Arizona was losing 45-10 at that point.
“I think his decision making, his demeanor, his demand of what we’re asking him to do [was good],” Rodriguez said. “It’s a tough situation to go in when you’re that far behind and all that, but I thought he made a couple good decisions, a couple good throws.”
If Arizona somehow falls to the middling Buffaloes on Saturday, as it did last year, it won’t only spell trouble for this season, but it might for the next one as well.