Arizona Football: Wildcats' Biggest Concerns Heading into the Offseason
With its dominant 42-19 win over Boston College in the AdvoCare V100 Bowl still fresh on the memory, the Arizona Wildcats head into the offseason full of confidence and belief that the program will continue on the upswing.
But there's no rest for the weary, not in today's ever-changing college football landscape. There are holes to fill, deficiencies to address and many other concerns that will keep head coach Rich Rodriguez and his staff from enjoying too much of a break before getting right back at it to prepare for 2014.
Here's our look at the things Arizona should be most concerned with this offseason.
How Do You Replace a One-Man Record Book?
Arizona's coaches must plan for the assumption that junior tailback Ka'Deem Carey will leave early for the NFL draft. Though he hadn't declared as of Monday, the second-round grade he received from the draft advisory board makes it very likely he's leaving.
With that being said, having to replace the player who holds nearly every school single-game, single-season, career rushing and touchdown record is quite a daunting task.
Odds are, the Wildcats would go to a running back by committee approach, using a mix of existing backups (sophomore Jared Baker carried 27 times for 127 yards in 2013) and incoming recruits to fill the void. Arizona has a commitment from 4-star back Nick Wilson, while two other commits have running back experience and could be pressed into early action.
A lot will also depend on the skills possessed by whoever becomes Arizona's starting quarterback. The more running that comes from that spot, the less that might be needed from the tailback position.
Who Will Be the Quarterback?
B.J. Denker became more and more invaluable as the 2013 season went along, with his running ability making up for early accuracy issues. By the end of the year, he'd become a complete player, and a dangerous one at that.
There are at least six players who will be in contention to replace the senior, one fewer than previous after redshirt freshman Javelle Allen was dismissed from the team just before the bowl game.
The top candidates include Anu Solomon, a 4-star signee who redshirted this past season, Texas transfer Connor Brewer, USC transfer Jesse Scroggins, former LSU player Jerrard Randall and incoming recruit Brandon Dawkins.
Whoever wins the job will be expected to provide a blend of what the last two Wildcat quarterbacks have brought to the table, that being a blend of elusiveness that can lead to positive rushing yards as well as a strong and accurate arm.
Should Some Players Switch Sides?
UCLA made national headlines when, seemingly out of nowhere, they inserted freshman linebacker Myles Jack in at running back. This happened during Arizona's 31-26 home loss to the Bruins, and no one was prepared for it.
Might Arizona want to try to do something similar? If it does, it won't be with as much flair.
More likely, the Wildcats may look to convert some of its overflowing crop of wide receivers into defensive backs. Even though they've got some strong commits in the secondary, including their first-ever 5-star recruit, Jalen Tabor, there's nothing wrong with having extra bodies available.
Arizona uses a five-man back line on defense, with as many as eight defensive backs on the field during obvious passing downs.
Will All of the Recruits Stick with Their Commitments?
The Wildcats reached new recruiting heights last week when 5-star cornerback Jalen Tabor committed to them during the Under Armour All-American game. Tabor, who chose Arizona over Alabama, is the school's first-ever 5-star commit and provided an instant boost to what had already been a strong recruiting class.
Now, the key is for Arizona to hold on to all of these recruits. National signing day is Feb. 5, meaning the Wildcats must spend the next four weeks keeping in touch with the 23 high school players they've received commitments from. Constant contact can only help strengthen the relationship between school and these impressionable young men.
Can the Coaching Staff Stay Intact?
The college football coaching carousel picked up steam over the weekend when Texas hired Charlie Strong away from Louisville, thus starting the added ride that throws various names out as candidates for each subsequent opening.
Arizona's Rich Rodriguez has had his name thrown into the mix for the Louisville opening, with media outlets reporting he could be a top target for the school.
Holding onto Rodriguez is essential for the Wildcats to keep progressing. The school hasn't lost a head football coach to another school since Larry Smith left following the 1986 season to take the USC job.