Running backs Baker and Butler to step up for Arizona football
Kelsee Becker / Arizona Daily Wildcat
On Monday Afternoon, Coach Rodriguez prepares players for the upcoming Fall 2013 season. UA Football began their spring practices this past Saturday.
Jared Baker and Kylan Butler aren’t big name Arizona football players, as of right now.
With the Wildcats’ second-leading rushing running back, Daniel Jenkins, gone, Baker and Butler are now the ones who will be supporting the nation’s leading rusher, Arizona running back Ka’Deem Carey.
The Wildcats lost Jenkins in January when he transferred to play his final season at Washington State.
Jenkins graduated from the UA in the fall but chose to take his talents to Pullman, Wash., where he is expected to see more playing time.
“[Jenkins] was a good kid; he did everything we asked of him,” co-offensive coordinator Calvin Magee said. “He gave us depth and played a huge role for our team last season behind Ka’Deem.”
The complementary back played in all 13 games for Arizona but still only carried the ball 67 times.
His new replacements, Baker and Butler, have a combined total of 31 career carries. Baker rushed for 85 yards on 20 carries and one touchdown last year as a freshman. Butler, a redshirt senior, has 11 career rushes for 57 yards in his three years at the UA.
“We want to find three or four backs that we can win with,” head coach Rich Rodriguez said, “and with the guys we got now and the guys we got coming in the fall we’ll be able to find at least three, I think.”
Three-star high school recruits Pierre Cormier, Zachary Green, T.J. Johnson and Mauriece Lee will also compete for Jenkins’ old job when they join the program in the fall. But for now, it’s Baker and Butler’s opportunity to get a head start.
“We’re just using the spring as an opportunity to get into shape,” Baker said. “[Butler] and I are close, and he’s good competition.”
As a freshman in 2012, Baker saw limited playing time as a reserve, but did manage to get on the field on special teams. Baker was Arizona’s main kick returner for the final seven games of the season, including in the New Mexico Bowl.
As a running back, Baker saw most of his action in week three against South Carolina State. In that game he got 10 carries for 44 yards and scored his first and only collegiate touchdown.
“We’re all tight and [a] solid all-around group,” Butler said about the running backs. “[Baker is] a cool dude and we work so closely together that we feed off each other when we compete.”
Butler’s role since coming to the UA in 2009 has been predominantly that of a reserve, and he has seen most of his playing time on special teams.
Against Utah in 2012, Butler made a momentum swinging tackle on a fake punt by the Utes in the fourth quarter. His hustle and dedication to the Wildcats’ program has not gone unnoticed by his coaches, and might give him a slight edge going into the fall.
“Kylan is a veteran and has put in a lot of work to get to know the new system,” Magee said. “He’s a hard worker and understands what we need from him.”
A depth chart won’t be established until the fall, so there is plenty of time for Butler and Baker to get on the good side of their coaches. As for now, the coaches ask the two running backs to use spring football to get into shape and be ready to compete come August.
“Right now we just got to put our heads down and keep working,” Butler said. “Jared and I are really good backs so we got to use this time to stay focused and prepared for what coaches need of us next season.”