Arizona football notes: Foles’ future, injury update, change at corner?by Anthony Gimino on Nov. 11, 2010, under Sports
As a former All-Big Ten safety and a former defensive coordinator, Arizona Wildcats coach Mike Stoops probably hates giving up big passing plays above all else.
But it keeps on happening.
With four games to go, Arizona has given up 19 passing plays of at least 25 yards, the same number it did all of last season.
In 2008, the Wildcats allowed only 16 passing plays of such length.
“We’re just giving up too many big plays in the secondary,” Stoops said.
And so a change might be coming.
After Tuesday’s practice, co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach Greg Brown said that true freshman Shaquille Richardson had been getting the “bulk of the reps in practice” in place of junior Trevin Wade.
Stoops was asked after Wednesday’s practice if it was possible that Richardson could start.
“Sure,” Stoops said.
“We’re going to play all three guys a decent amount,” he added, also referring to starting cornerback Robert Golden. “Who is playing well will determine how much each guy plays. We’ll probably play all three corners, maybe more. We’ll see.”
Arizona will be facing a top-notch quarterback Saturday in USC sophomore Matt Barkley, who has two excellent options at wideout — speedy senior Ronald Johnson and true freshman Robert Woods, who had 12 catches for 224 yards and three touchdowns against Stanford last month.
While the Arizona secondary struggled last week in a 42-17 loss at Stanford, Stoops said that “in no way, shape or form is this on Trevin.” But Wade, who was picked as a preseason second-team All-American by some media outlets, “just hasn’t played like he’s capable of,” Stoops added.
In any case, the secondary will have to play better in the final three regular-season games against three offenses that are all some shade of dangerous — USC, Oregon (color them lethally dangerous) and Arizona State.
“We’ve been giving up plays where it’s solely been the fault of the back half on numerous occasions,” Brown said.
“And it has been across the board. It has been all sorts of coverage, pressure, man coverage, zone coverage, you name it. We’ve just made mistakes. Sometimes, we have outlived it and been able to survive, and sometimes no. At Stanford we weren’t able to overcome it.”
In a SportsIllustrated.com slideshow of the top 10 quarterback prospects for the 2011 NFL Draft, Arizona’s Nick Foles came in at No. 4, with the following caption:
“Foles’ stock is moving north as he’s quickly developing into a complete passer. He possesses the arm strength needed to play at the next level and has the intelligence as well as leadership skills to start in the NFL. But word in the scouting community is Foles will likely to return to Arizona for his senior season. … 1st/2nd Round Prospect.”
I figured there was no harm in asking Foles, a redshirt junior, if he knew what his plans were for next season.
“I honestly haven’t thought it. I don’t really worry about it,” Foles said.
“It’s just like coming out of high school. There are a lot of rankings and you don’t even know what’s true. I don’t even know what those rankings were; I hadn’t heard of it. So, I have no clue. I haven’t thought about it all. … I’m just enjoying playing here right now. I just want to enjoy that.”
When I talked last month to Rob Rang, a senior draft analyst for NFLDraftScout.com, he projected that Foles could develop into a second-round pick in 2012.
Rang’s concern at this point is that Foles needs to consistently show a more accurate deep ball, and there is the usual doubt about how a spread-offense quarterback can transition to a pro-style attack.
If Foles a “system” quarterback?
Rang tweeted during Saturday’s Arizona-Stanford game that the “only difference in Foles & (former Hawaii quarterback) Colt Brennan is hair length.”
Stoops said that two of his offense’s biggest playmakers — receiver Juron Criner and running back Nic Grigsby — are probable for Saturday’s game. Both have been suffering from sprained ankles.
“I would imagine they are going to play,” Stoops said. “To what extent, how big a factor they are, we’ll just have to wait and see.”