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Running back options

Booth, Antolin give Cats some depth

Keola Antolin

Keola Antolin

Something was needed to help boost the University of Arizona rushing attack – a little more power and a lot more speed.

The Wildcats have added both in tailbacks Nick Booth and Keola Antolin.

The two are battling for backup duty behind starter Nic Grigsby. So far they appear to be just what Arizona needs after the Wildcats averaged just 76 yards on the ground a year ago.

“It’s a good combination to have,” UA running backs coach Dana Dimel said. “They bring something different, and we can use both.”

Booth, from College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, Ill., seemed to have come from out of nowhere. The 6-foot-2, 221-pound back from Naperville, Ill., got lost in the recruiting shuffle.

It’s tough to imagine a 1,000-yard rusher in junior college not getting much interest, but that’s what happened to Booth.

“That is crazy,” Dimel said. “You would think junior college running backs would be a find and gobbled up . . . I can tell you there is a case history of JC backs not being recruited that end up doing pretty well.”

Dimel took in transfer Mike Jenkins while coaching at Wyoming despite few paying attention to Jenkins when he was in junior college.

Jenkins went on to earn All-Mountain West Conference honors.

The Wildcats would love to have Booth emerge as a combo power back and pass catcher to complement Grigsby’s speed.

“When it is time to hit the hole I will run somebody over, and when it is time to run through them I will make a couple of cuts,” Booth said. “I don’t limit myself to just one aspect. I like to do everything I can to make a big play.”

The 5-8, 175-pound Antolin, from Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, has shown big-play potential in practice.

Antolin, although on the small side, has become a force as a back and as a returner throughout preseason camp.

“When I get the ball in my hands something is going to happen,” Antolin said.

The speedster plays low to the ground and can spot holes, and he has worked plenty with the second-team unit.

“He gets lost in there when he runs so nobody can see him,” Dimel said.

“He’s also a good pass catcher and a really good pass protector, especially for his size. He gets so low to the ground he comes up underneath people and leverages them.”

A little leverage in the run game is a good thing to mix with UA’s spread offensive passing attack.

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UA FOOTBALL SEASON OPENER: IDAHO AT ARIZONA, 7 P.M. AUG. 30

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