As the college football season quickly approaches, the Arizona Wildcats look ahead to the 2016-17 campaign with plenty of optimism. One reason for that enthusiasm, and maybe even for a little cynicism, is the group of running backs that are expected to take on the rushing loads.
The primary reason for positive outlook could simply be because of the fact junior Nick Wilson, who has been a workhorse, for better or for worse, appears ready to go for the upcoming season.
The 5-foot-10, 208-pound running back out of Fresno, California had an injury-riddled 2015 season, appearing in only nine contests due to nagging foot and knee injuries. In those nine games, Wilson rushed for 729 yards on 134 carries, while adding eight touchdowns.
When healthy, he proved to be one of the more productive backs in the Pac-12 Conference, if not the country. In the 2014 season, when he played in 13 games, he rushed for 1,375 yards and 16 scores while averaging just under six yards per carry. He also accumulated 105.8 yards per game, which led Pac-12 rookies. All of those stats earned him an All Pac-12 Honorable Mention.
A little known fact about his freshman season was that Wilson was playing through a pretty severe injury.
“Coming into Arizona my freshman year, I had two broken collarbones and I didn’t even know that I was playing with both of those,” Wilson said. “I mean, for the most part, it’s just a mindset, it’s just what you can take. And I always thought I had a really high pain tolerance, and apparently I did because I just recently found out that happened.”
When asked what goes through his head when he gets the ball, Wilson referenced a Marshawn Lynch interview, in which Lynch said that you just have to run through somebody’s face.
“I’m not gonna say exactly what he said,” Wilson said, “But you just got to keep going, and going, and going, and most people can’t take that ... I’d rather hit somebody than have them hit me.”
It’s that type of physical running that had head coach Rich Rodriguez saying this in an interview with the Arizona Daily Star: “Sometimes, I wish he’d try to make a guy miss, but sometimes he looks for a guy and wants to run him over.”
But it’s not only his physical game that Wilson claims has him feeling good about the upcoming season. He says that he has worked on the mental side of the game as well.
“I feel that as I’m older now, I definitely know the game more,” Wilson said. “I think I have an advantage over other people because I know what the quarterback’s doing, what the receivers are doing, what the line is doing. So I definitely feel more confident in the offense.”
As for what to expect in the season opener against BYU, Wilson said that he and the team had a large and heart-felt piece of motivation.
“We definitely got to pull this one out for Zach [Hemmila],” Wilson said. “He’s definitely on our shoulders and in our hearts.”
With that type of motivation, along with an improved mental skill set and taking the correct precautions to avoid injury, Wilson is poised to have another huge year for the Wildcats.
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