For our first game of the 2012 season, we had a chance to do an email Q&A session with the Arizona blog, Arizona Desert Swarm. Kevin was kind enough to answer our questions so read below the fold to find get the Wildcat’s take on their matchup with Toledo and how they see things in Tuscon.
1) What are the expectations for Rich Rodriquez’s first season?
Quite simply, I expect the Wildcats to play hard and score a lot of points. That won’t necessarily translate to wins and losses, but it’s a step in the right direction after Mike Stoops appeared to have lost the locker room at times before he got canned. Stoops did, however, leave the cupboard half full. The offensive line has experience, there’s talent at running back, especially with sophomore Ka’Deem Carey, and quarterback Matt Scott is perfect for RichRod’s zone-read offense. Scott fixed up his throwing mechanics last season redshirting behind Nick Foles, and he has some speed to go with the arm.
The defense, however, looks dicey at best. The unit was one of the worst defenses in the country last season and lost its three leading tacklers and two defensive backs, who were NFL-caliber players even. Plus, we in Arizona have been warned — mostly by Michigan fans — that both the offense and defense will take time to learn. So in the end, something like a 4-8 season is something to expect.
2) What changes do you expect to see in the offensive/defensive schemes from last season?
Technically, everything is being revamped. Arizona’s offenses that you guys saw the last two meetings were products of the old Texas Tech Air Raid offenses, and the quarterbacks they had in those games weren’t dual-threat guys. Rodriguez is running a zone-read that better fits Scott, who ran something similar in high school. But like the last couple of years, I wouldn’t expect Scott to take off very often considering so much of the season will ride on his health — I think that means a lot of quick throws like last year but there will be more emphasis in running the ball will three capable running backs in Carey, Daniel Jenkins and Kylan Butler. But we’ll see.
Defensively, this is a huge change from Stoops’ defense which were pretty traditional, if you can use that word these days. The 3-3-5 is all about creating illusion. The goal is to confuse the offense in not knowing which players will blitz and where the five defensive backs will fall back (or not) in coverage. The good thing is that after Stoops was fired, interim Tim Kish inserted a more freelancing offense; in that, we found playmaker Tra’Mayne Bondurant, who is a little guy essentially playing up in the box. He’s not at a somewhat similar “spur” position that’s a linebacker/safety hybrid (the other similar position is called the bandit). Anyway, the point here is that while they will create confusion, that comes with giving up a lot of size with only three down linemen and three undersized linebackers.
3) What three names (Off. or Def.) will Rocket fans be most familiar with on Sunday morning?
I’ve already talked in length about Scott and expect him to have some big numbers, but Carey is the one we’re all hoping to have a breakout year. At 5-foot-10, 200 pounds he has the total package of speed, power and moves, but the most important thing is he’s got a great feel for the game. He has the potential to break a big run and eclipse the 100-yard mark, assuming Rodriguez gives him closer to 20 carries rather than 15.
I’ll also go with the long, curly-haired Taimi Tutogi, who will see time as fullback and also on the defensive line. Yeah, depth is that bad.
Finally, let’s give the defense a little love. The rock is Jake Fischer, the Wildcats’ middle linebacker. When he last played in 2010, Fischer was the fourth-leading tackler on the squad. He’s coming off a year-long return from an ACL tear but hasn’t been limited for a while now. He should be healthy and itching to return to the field.
Thanks again to Kevin at Arizona Desert Swarm for the Q&A. Be sure to check out their blog for our answers to their questions as well.