Pac-10 Preview: Wildcats Will Look to Ride Bowl Win Momentum

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Pac-10 Preview: Wildcats Will Look to Ride Bowl Win Momentum
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

It has been a long time since the Arizona Wildcats played in a bowl game.

Nine years to be exact.

Last year broke the bowl drought as Arizona beat in state rival Arizona State to secure a spot in the Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl.

But being in a bowl game just was not good enough for the Stoops led team.

The Wildcats pulled off an upset of sorts, as they defeated the then number seventeen in the country, the BYU Cougars 31-21.

The fall of 2009 will be the first season in quite a while that head coach Mike Stoops will not be on the hot seat entering the season.

The hard work and philosophy that he has embedded at Arizona seems to be paying off now.

With their first bowl win in nearly a decade under their belt, here is a look at how the 2009 Wildcats will fair.

 

Offense

The quarterback position will see a new face after Willie Tuitama graduated and left the program.

The two quarterbacks that will be competing for the starting job will be true sophomore Matt Scott and redshirt sophomore Nick Foles.

Foles was a transfer from Michigan State a year ago.

Both will bring contrasting styles to the position and the offense.

Scott has been the backup for Tuitama the past two seasons, giving him the nod as far as understanding the offensive strategies.

The sophomore provides mobility to the quarterback position, something it has lacked somewhat the last few years.

Foles fits the mold as your stereotypical quarterback (6'5" 235 lbs). He will sit in the pocket much more, as he should with the big arm he has displayed in the spring.

Expect both to see time on the field this fall.

There will be a void left at the receiver position now that Mike Thomas has left for the NFL.

But the depth that was left in his wake should make the transition to life without Thomas fairly smooth.

Junior tight end Rob Gronkowski will provide a huge target for the young signal callers this fall.

Gronkowski, who many see as one of the top tight ends in the league, led the team in touchdown receptions last fall with ten.

Experienced talent will flank the offense on the outside as junior Delashaun Dean and senior Terrell Turner will return as pass catchers for the Wildcats.

Over the last two seasons, this duo has combined for 184 catches. Needless to say the receiving corps. will be one of the strongest in the conference.

Arizona will boast one of the stronger backfields this season as well with the returns of Nic Grigsby and sophomore Keola Antolin.

Grigsby rushed for over 1,100 yards last season, and amassed 13 touchdowns in the process. Nic averaged nearly 5.5 yards per carry in 2008. He has the ability to break any play wide open.

Antolin jumped into the offense and made an immediate impact as he rushed for 525 yards while spelling Grigsby. Keola also added ten touchdowns of his own, making this a great 1-2 punch.

The loss of both starting tackles to graduation and the NFL will make the offensive line the biggest question this season.

Arizona will be looking to replace three starters total from a year ago, so for this offense to click, the group up front must become cohesive.

 

Defense

Defensively, the Wildcats will continue the theme of experience as a total of ten lineman return with game time under their belts.

Brooks Reed led the team in sacks last year with eight, and he will look to bring that same speed and pressure off of the edge again.

Starting across from him will be Ricky Elmore, also a returning starter.

Inside, Earl Mitchell will continue his transformation from tight end to defensive tackle this season, as it paid dividends last fall.

Within the five man rotation at tackle, four of them have started at some point in their careers.

At linebacker, Arizona will return senior Xavier Kelley who started every game last season. Teaming up with Kelley will be Sterling Lewis, who cracked the starting lineup five times in 2008.

Corey Hall will fill in at the other linebacking position, as he moves from the secondary.

Devin Ross will be the name everyone will recognize in the secondary, as he comes back for his senior year campaign.

Cam Nelson also returns to start in the secondary at safety for the Wildcats.

There is plenty of depth to fill the open corner position opposite of Ross, with the leading candidates being Trevor Wade and Mike Turner who returns from suspension.

 

Special Teams

Sophomore Alex Zendejas will look to follow in his father's footsteps as place kicker for Arizona this fall.

He saw some spot time last year, but the kicking game will solely be his now.

Keenyn Crier returns for his third season as the punter, where he averages nearly 44 yards per punt.

Keola Antolin will also see time as a kick returner to go along with his duties as running back.

 

Outlook

The way the season begins and ends for the Arizona Wildcats will be critical.

They will play on the road at Iowa and Oregon State within the first four games of the season.

To close the year out, they must go on the road Cal, ASU, and USC. Not to mention Oregon comes to town in the month of November as well.

The quarterback and line will be the question mark entering the season. If they can hold up their end of the bargain, then Arizona and Stoops may find greater success then last season.

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