Weekday opener leads to quirky schedule
Former Arizona running back Daniel Jenkins ran a 91-yard touchdown during Arizona’s 35-0 win against NAU in the season opener at Arizona Stadium. The Wildcats open the 2014-15 season on Friday against UNLV.
The end of Arizona football’s training camp and having a season opener on a weekday has led to a somewhat odd schedule for the Wildcats.
Sunday was similar to a Tuesday practice and, in the Wildcats’ last media availability on Friday before school started, head coach Rich Rodriguez said the players will dine at their position coaches’ places.
“[Friday] the players are going to their position coaches’ houses, and I’m sure they’ll eat like champions,” Rodriguez said. “They’ll probably have a hard time getting up [Saturday].”
Arizona opens the season on Friday by hosting UNLV at 7:30 p.m. Last year, the Wildcats beat the Rebels 58-13 in Las Vegas.
Late last week, the Wildcats wrapped up the almost four-week-long training camp.
“It’s good to stop going against our teammates; we finally get to focus on UNLV and get focused to win that game,” junior receiver David Richards said.
The Wildcats have four weekday games this season: Friday against the Rebels, Sept. 4 at UTSA, Oct. 2 at Oregon and Nov. 28 versus ASU. Last year, the UA only had two games on weekdays during the regular season, the 35-0 opening game win over NAU and a 38-31 loss at USC.
“It feels a little weird, but it’s just the same old,” Richards said. “We’re going to get to work and get ready for UNLV.”
Rodriguez seemed satisfied with the Wildcats’ progress compared to last year.
“I’m probably too close to the situation to assess it, but a few people who have come to practice both of the last two years have said that we’re playing a lot faster,” Rodriguez said. “I think it’s a combination of it being the third year in this system and having faster players.”
Rodriguez said that while the players and coaches get a little extra bounce in the step with the first game week, he always worries about the first week of school.
“There’s a lot going on and they’re going to class for the first time and their focus needs to be on just school and playing ball,” Rodriguez said, “where there’s 30,000 other students [with] their focus … on school and maybe something else.”
Carrying the load
With days until the season opener, it looks like Arizona will use a running back by committee to try and replace former Arizona star and current Chicago Bear Ka’Deem Carey.
Rodriguez said there’s been multiple times where running backs on his teams split the load.
“With Ka’Deem, not only was he a good player but [he was] so durable, he’d carry the load,” Rodriguez said. “There’s three, maybe even four, guys that will play tailback for us this year for an extended period of time.”
The Wildcats lost their top three rushers last year: Carey, quarterback B.J. Denker, who ran for 949 yards and running back Daniel Jenkins, who ran for 411.
Junior running back Jared Baker ran for 127 yards on 27 carries, but [he] is coming off an ACL injury sustained at ASU.
The Pac-12 was second only to the 14-team South Eastern Conference for the most teams in the Associated Press Preseason Top 25 that was released last week.
The SEC had eight teams in the poll, followed by the Pac-12 with six, the Big Ten with four and the ACC and Big 12 with three.
The Pac-12 boasts No. 3 Oregon, which received one first-place vote, No. 7 UCLA, No. 11 Stanford, No. 15 USC, No. 19 ASU and No. 25 Washington. Oregon State also received votes.
Arizona will face the Ducks, Trojans, Bruins, Huskies and Sun Devils, but will miss the Cardinal. Six Pac-12 teams are also ranked in the coaches poll, which has the Conference of Champions teams in the same spots, except Oregon at No. 4 and ASU at No. 18.
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