Arizona Football: How Will Cats Replace Ka'Deem Carey?

Brian PedersenFeatured ColumnistJanuary 8, 2014

Arizona Football: How Will Cats Replace Ka'Deem Carey?

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    Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Spor

    Though it hasn't happened yet, it is very likely that standout Arizona running back Ka'Deem Carey will forego his senior season and enter the NFL Draft. The deadline is Jan. 15 for draft-eligible underclassmen to declare their intentions.

    Assuming that Carey goes, it will leave the Wildcats with a huge hole to fill. Carey has led Arizona in rushing each of the past two seasons, rushing for 3,814 yards with 42 touchdowns during that span.

    How, exactly, will Arizona replace such a potent producer? We've got some thoughts.

Throw the Ball More

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    Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Spor

    The simplest solution, if Arizona doesn't have Ka'Deem Carey at its disposal, is to convert into more of a pass-first team.

    Arizona threw less than 35 percent of the time in 2013, though that pass/run breakdown was slightly less disparate when you consider many run plays were the results of sacks or quarterback scrambles on broken plays.

    How much the Wildcats would take to the air would likely depend on which quarterback replaces senior B.J. Denker as the starter. The list includes transfers, redshirting players and incoming recruits, and they vary in their skills and abilities.

    One thing is for certain, though: if Arizona were to become a pass-heavy team it has a wealth of talented receivers at its disposal. In addition to young standouts Trey Griffey, Garic Wharton and Nate Phillips (who on Monday was named a Freshman All-American by the Football Writers' Association of America) the Wildcats will have transfers DaVonte' Neal (Notre Dame) and Cayleb Jones (Texas), while 2012 leading receiver Austin Hill will be back after missing this past season because of a knee injury.

Running Back by Committee

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    Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

    After Ka'Deem Carey and B.J. Denker, the player with the most rushing yards this season was senior Daniel Jenkins. Take those three out of the equation and the Wildcats return less than 150 yards' worth of the 2013 rushing offense.

    Arizona redshirted freshman Pierre Cormier, a 4-star recruit from San Diego who had more than 2,200 rushing yards his senior year of high school. And the current recruiting class includes a commitment from 4-star back Nick Wilson from Fresno, Calif.

    Throw in some other players currently on the roster who could get a sniff, and Arizona may just rotate a number of bodies through the backfield during spring ball and preseason training camp. This rotation could go into the season, too, if that seems to be the best approach.

Improved Blocking Schemes

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    Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

    With a new quarterback and likely an all-new backfield in 2014, Arizona's offensive linemen are going to have a lot of pressure on their hefty shoulders.

    With so much inexperience behind them, it's very likely this veteran group will be asked to create more holes than normal so as to allow for young backs to get some momentum and confidence.

    While Ka'Deem Carey deserves a lot of the credit for his production the past two years, the line also must be praised for its ability to make such productivity possible. Arizona finished 11th in FBS in rushing average at 264.9 yards per game, and that line blocked well enough for the Wildcats to gain 5.3 yards per carry.

    Look for offensive line coach Jim Michalczik to try some new blocking schemes that will fit well with the zone-read approach that Arizona has used under head coach Rich Rodriguez, ones that will make it easier for young rushers to find running lanes.