Arizona football receivers struggle to pick up slack
The mechanics behind Arizona’s offense are complex — not just your basic pitch and catch.
Arizona quarterback B.J. Denker may have chosen to take a majority of the blame for the offense’s inability to throw the ball through its first two games, but the receiving corps is also a huge part of the spread offense.
“It’s about playing in open space,” head coach Rich Rodriguez said when asked about his offense in the spring. “We need our guys to be ready when the ball is spotted and ready to be fast.”
Arizona’s receivers are slim. Through two games, seven Wildcats have caught 17 passes for 168 yards. Their opponents have brought in 30 catches for 301 yards, despite the fact that Arizona has outscored the opposition 93-13 this season.
Ryan Revock/The Daily Wildcat UA receiver Terrence Miller catches the ball during warm up before the UNLV game on Saturday.
With three interceptions returned for touchdowns, the defense has scored two more touchdowns than the entire receiving corps. Two of the seven Wildcats who have caught passes are running backs Daniel Jenkins and Jared Baker. Jenkins caught the only receiving touchdown on the Wildcats’ opening drive of the season.
“Kudos to those guys,” senior receiver Terrence Miller said about the defense. “They’re working hard, and they’re forcing teams to throw ball, and it’s working in their favor. I don’t really have any complaints or beef with how the offense has been working so far.”
Prior to the beginning of fall camp, it was well-understood that losing experienced junior receiver Austin Hill to a knee injury would have an impact, and replacing the 81 catches and 1,364 yards he had in 2012 would be nearly impossible. So with Hill gone, much of the attention this offseason was on Miller to replace Hill as the go-to receiver.
“We knew it would be difficult without Austin [Hill],” Rodriguez said yesterday after practice. “[Hill] is one of our most experienced receivers coming back, and we knew that, and we got guys who are capable of doing it.”
But two games into the season, Miller has only been targeted twice by Denker. Miller says he’s not upset by the lack of stats because as a split receiver and tight end, he can still be productive with getting big blocks.“We just got to keep running hard and being ready to play fast when the ball is spotted,” Miller said.
Even though much has been made of the offense’s lackluster passing game so far, Miller said he just sees it as part of the learning experience. Arizona has inexperience at a lot of positions. Just because the team is still gelling doesn’t mean there is no talent. The Wildcats just haven’t shown it off yet.
“The routs have been there,” Miller said. “We just need to keep pressing. But once teams begin to start forcing us to throw the ball, we’ll be there. Right now, teams are allowing us to run the ball, so there’s no need to throw it. But that will change, and we’ll be ready.”
—Follow Luke Della @LukeDellaDW