Returning their top three rushers at the position from 2009, the Wildcats tailbacks will be a great strength for Arizona in 2010.Arizona rushed for just over 2,000 yards and 19 touchdowns last season.
With so many weapons coming back this year, the 'Cats should look to put up even better numbers in 2010.
Nic Grigsby has been the starting tailback, for better or worse, since he won the job during his freshman year in 2007. Grigsby has amassed 2,424 yard since then, and has had ten 100+ yard games.
Grigsby put up 567 yards in the 2009 campaign, even though he only played in six games. Grigsby was plagued by a shoulder injury throughout the season and had difficulty staying healthy once the initial injury occured.
It is important to note, however, that Grigsby rushed for his 567 yards in only 78 attempts, which means Grigsby averaged a staggering 7.2 yards per carry.
A 94-yard run against NAU, and a game winning 50-yard run against Stanford helped bolster those numbers, but they also displayed the fact that, when healthy, Nic Grigsby is a flat out game changer.
Grigsby will be the most experienced on the tailback depth chart for the 2010 season, and he'll look to use that experience, leadership, and hopefully a strong, healthy body, to make his senior campaign his coup de grâce.
Keola Antolin was heavily relied upon for the 2009 season, after Nic Grigsby went down. Unfortunately for Antolin, he was relied upon so much that he eventually got hurt as well and had to sit for a couple games.
Antolin is another example of a Wildcat tailback who contributed despite being injured, as he was the leading rusher for the 'Cats. Antolin ran for 637 yards in 114 tries. A 67-yard touchdown run against ASU put the stamp on the game, and the Wildcats season.
Antolin, at 5'8", gives the Wildcats a small, shifty back that keeps his center of gravity low to the ground and therefore makes it hard for defenders to bring him down.
Antolin will once again play back-up to Nic Grigsby in 2010, but there is every indication that he will be seeing plenty of the field over the course of the season.
Nwoko was the third tailback that Stoops needed to call into action in 2009. Nwoko rose to the challenge and rushed for 273 yards and 3 touchdowns.
After both Grigsby and Antolin went down during the Stanford game, Nwoko's number was called and he subsequently broke away for a 43-yard run, keeping the Wildcats in the game.
Nwoko gives the 'Cats a bigger-back option for third down and goal-line situations but, as history has proved, Stoops won't hesitate to throw Nwoko in as an every down back should the situation arise. Also, his pass catchiing ability, 18 receptions for 186 yards in 2009, makes Nwoko a versatile weapon in the Arizona offense.
Look for Nwoko to push for a bigger role during the 2010 season, especially if the 'Cats struggle with injuries again.
Daniel Jenkins' date of birth is June 5, 1992, (I did the quick math and felt old as well) making Jenkins only 17 years old. Jenkins was smart enough to skip the third grade, and after finally turning 18 this summer, he'll be looking to skip up the depth chart as well.
Jenkins' skills, both football and academic, made him a highly touted runnning back in the 2009 class, and one of the highest rated players in Arizona's 2009 class.
Jenkins redshirted during the 2009 season, giving the practice squad a tremendous weapon to help prepare the first team defense. He earned Practice Squad Player of the Week honors before the Iowa game.
Jenkins was able to put together one of the best springs amongst the tailbacks, getting plenty of repetitions during both spring practice and the Spring Game.
Jenkins is a fast, shifty tailback and is a threat to score every time he touches the ball. Jenkins will get his chance to see the field in 2010, and the only problem the coaches might have with him will be to try and send him back to the sideline.
Kylan Butler was one of the first prospects to commit to the Wildcats in 2009 and stuck with his commitment for the duration. Butler came to Arizona from De La Salle High School in Concord, California, one of the most successful prep schools in the country.
Butler put up some staggering numbers as a high school athlete, rushing for just shy of 1300 yards and 15 touchdowns during his senior year alone.
Butler redshirted during 2009 and having him as the fifth option at tailback in 2010 means that Wildcats have one of the deepest squads in the Pac-10.
Butler should definitely get his shot to carry the ball in 2010 and might even be an option on Special Teams.
More often than not, fans have never heard of the practice squad players, the walk-on's and redshirted players who get the snot beat out of them every day.
Oliver Padre, however, might be a name that some 'Cats fans recognize, as Padre played for the Arizona baseball team in 2007 and 2008.
Padre walked on to the football team in the spring of 2010, giving the Wildcats a strong, athletic practice squad tailback to help prepare the defense.
Padre lived with former Wildcat stars Rob and Chris Gronkowski. Hopefully some of their strength and conditioning tips have rubbed off on him.
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