Arizona Preview 2016: Rich Rodriguez had a rough year, but his O should still roll.
It’s back to the drawing board for Arizona and head coach Rich Rodriguez.
Okay, so last season wasn’t exactly Armageddon for the Wildcats, which defeated New Mexico in the New Mexico Bowl, 45-37, to dodge a first losing record in four years. But it also wasn’t an appropriate encore from the squad that won 10 games and captured the Pac-12 South just a season earlier. It was an undisputed step in reverse that the entire program is working this offseason to stop in its tracks.
Arizona went 3-6 in conference play in 2015, unable to slow down opponents after All-American LB Scooby Wright suffered a lengthy injury. And now that Wright, as well as DE Reggie Gilbert and S Will Parks, are gone, the Cats will be forced to lean harder than ever on the prolific offense.
Enter coordinator Marcel Yates.
Yates was lured away from Boise State to fix the Arizona D, a project that’ll likely require more than one season and one recruiting class. The Wildcats have some nice players with upside, such as linebackers Paul Magloire and DeAndre’ Miller, but the overall mediocrity on the front and back ends means change will probably happen slowly in Tucson.
It’s a good thing Arizona can still score in bunches.
RichRod’s biggest impact in the desert has clearly come on offense. His read-option system has been the cornerstone of the program’s recent success, and will be again in 2016. The Cats didn’t lose much from the 2015 squad, though the O-line must do a better job in pass protection and a field-stretching wide receiver would help everyone. It’ll also be worth keeping a close eye on the battles in the backfield, as QB Anu Solomon and RB Nick Wilson brace for an uptick in competition this summer.
Arizona is a bit of an enigma entering 2016. On the one hand, its 33 wins are the most in school history over a four-year stretch. On the other, 2015 was a major disappointment that required a mini-staff reboot on the defensive side of the ball. The Wildcats are trying to relocate their fastball under RichRod, realizing that standing in one spot in the ultra-competitive South Division means you’re going to get trampled in a hurry.