Start the countdown to Ka’Deem Carey’s debut as an Arizona Wildcat.
He’s already been the most-hyped member of the true freshman class. First of all, he’s a running back, always a high-profile position. Secondly, he’s the hometown kid who led Canyon del Oro to the Class 4A-I state title in 2009.
And, well, most importantly, everyone knows he has a chance to be really, really good.
He displayed that potential in front of about 7,000 fans at Arizona Stadium on Saturday night, drawing oohs and aahs and further whetting the appetite. Carey ran eight times for 69 yards in the team’s final scrimmage, including a 39-yard burst when he found daylight around the right side and zoomed through defenders.
That run came one play after his 34-yard run around left end was called back because of penalty.
Carey also returned a kickoff about 40 yards.
“I love what Ka’Deem is doing,” coach Mike Stoops said.
“He gives us a special quality back there, and we have to keep bringing him along. He’s an electrifying runner. He’s a big, physical kid who has breakaway speed. He’s a very complete player.”
Carey took advantage of extra opportunities Saturday night.
Starting senior running back Keola Antolin, who did not play in the first two scrimmages, sat out again as coaches look to keep him fresh for the season. Besides, Antolin has nothing to prove in a scrimmage.
Second-stringer Daniel Jenkins, a redshirt sophomore, left about halfway through the scrimmage after turning his left ankle after catching a swing pass. He did not return but said afterward that the injury was not serious.
And Kylan Butler, also competing with Carey for that third-string spot, was absent Saturday because he was attending a family funeral, Stoops said.
As for Carey …
“It’s just a matter of getting him repetition and getting comfortable in our offense,” Stoops said. “If we continue to do that, he’ll continue to get more playing time as he gets more consistent.”
Carey, 5-foot-10 and 190 pounds, isn’t huge, but coaches like his willingness to be physical … and none of Arizona’s other backs (with Greg Nwoko out with an ACL injury) are great hulks.
“Obviously, we have some smaller backs,” said running backs coach Garret Chachere. “You have to figure they will get banged up during the season.”
In an effort to keep those running backs fresh and healthy, there will definitely be room in Arizona’s rotation for three or four running backs. While Antolin and (to a lesser extent) Jenkins have the experience advantage, Carey is hoping to quickly catch up, which will require further development of his blocking skills and knowledge of the offense.
No one questions his running skills after he rushed for 5,701 yards and scored 87 touchdowns at CDO.
“With a young back, you have to learn the offense,” said quarterback Nick Foles.
“And when you learn the offense, the protections and everything, that’s when you can start playing faster. Tonight, I saw him grow up a bit. He started playing faster. He still has a ways to go. We have to keep pushing him because he’s going to be a talented player for this university.
“Everybody saw it tonight. He was running all over the place. He’s going to help us this year.”
Note: Carey wasn’t available for interviews after the scrimmage, as Stoops has his newcomers off limits to the media until after Tuesday’s practice.