Campus Guide: UA football looks to improve upon back-to-back 8-5 seasons
Editor’s note: This article is part of the Arizona Summer Wildcat’s 2014 Campus Guide. The Campus Guide is a special issue that runs every year to help introduce incoming students to the UA and campus life.
Arizona football is back. After back-to-back 8-5 seasons, the UA is looking to add another successful season to its repertoire.
The Wildcats will come into the season returning six starters on both offense and defense.
Key returners for Arizona’s offense include wide receivers Samajie Grant and Nate Phillips and left tackle Mickey Baucus.
Grant totaled 47 receptions for 373 yards and a touchdown over nine starts as a true freshman. He also returned 10 kickoffs for 193 yards.
Arizona redshirt senior quarterback Jessie Scroggins tries to avoid being tackled during the spring football scrimmage at Arizona Stadium. Scroggins is in the running to be Arizona's 2014-15 starting quarterback.
Phillips started 10 and played in 13 games last year, earning an All-Pac-12 Honorable mention after hauling in 51 receptions for 696 yards and seven touchdowns.
Last season, Baucus started all 13 games and was an integral part of the offensive line that allowed for NFL player and former Wildcat Ka’Deem Carey to rush for 1,885 yards and 19 touchdowns.
That group also led Arizona to average 264.9 rushing yards while only allowing 1.31 sacks per game (both figures ranking second in the Pac-12).
The return of Austin Hill
Hill missed all of last year due to a torn ACL in April’s 2013 spring game. In 2012, he made 12 starts, played in 13 games and was named a Biletnikoff Award Semifinalist. The 2012 All-Pac-12 second team wide receiver led Arizona with 81 receptions for 1,364 yards (104.9 yards per game) and 11 touchdowns.
“It feels great to be back,” Hill said at the 2014 Pac-12 Media Day. “[I am]happy to be part of the family again. Missing the season after coming off a good season, you know, it was really rough. But I made it through.”
Arizona will depend on safeties Jared Tevis and Tra’Mayne Bondurant, linebacker Scooby Wright and cornerback Jonathan McKnight to lead its defense.
Last year, Tevis made 83 tackles (third most on the team) and forced three fumbles over 11 starts. He also caught an interception en route to Arizona’s 42-19 victory over Boston College at the AdvoCare 1000 Bowl.
Bondurant started and played in 12 games last year, amassing 72 tackles, including 46 solo stops. He also recorded four interceptions for 79 yards and two touchdowns, broke up five passes and forced a fumble.
Wright played in all 13 games last season and was named a Freshman All-American by 247sports.com and earned an All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention after making 83 tackles (second most among league freshmen).
McKnight started all 13 games last year and recorded 54 tackles, 44 of which were solo stops. He
led the team with eight passes broken up and also collected two interceptions.
Head coach Rich Rodriguez said at the 2014 Pac-12 Media Day that he’s confident in the program’s defense. He added that they also have more depth up front than they’ve had before, and they’re going to need it.
Who is going to be playing quarterback?
Connor Brewer – sophomore
Jerrard Randall – junior
Jesse Scroggins – senior
Anu Solomon – redshirt freshman
Due to the program’s quick-paced practices, it’s not a stretch to see Rodriguez and his staff prepare three or even four potential quarterbacks to the point where they are game-ready in their opinion.
“The truth is, I really don’t know and I may not know until the first game,” Rodriguez said at the 2014 Pac-12 Media Day. “The expectation for quarterbacks in our system is pretty high. The good part is the talent is there and there are some [capable] guys he could throw to as well.”
Rodriguez said that over the first few weeks of camp, he and his staff are going to work hard as far as evaluating the quarterback options and putting them under stressful situations in practice to see who could handle the pressure of being the team’s starter.
—Follow Evan Rosenfeld @EvanRosenfeld17