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After spring game, Arizona turns its attention to missing dimension on offense

Matt Scott

This could be a welcome sight in 2012: Matt Scott on the move. Photo by Chris Morrison-US PRESSWIRE

There was one important element of the Arizona Wildcats’ offense you couldn’t see in the spring game, and that’s because it apparently resides in a different dimension.

The Cats held their spring game — a situational scrimmage, really — in front of nearly 5,000 fans at Kino Stadium on Saturday, running basic plays on offense and never able to roll out the element of the read-option offense that makes the attack special:

The run game from the quarterback.

The most important thing all spring from a personnel standpoint was to have quarterback Matt Scott stay healthy, and for him to stay healthy, the coaches didn’t allow him to be hit.

Not allowing him to be hit meant that he wasn’t a threat to keep the ball after he stuck it in the belly of the running back while surveying the defense — the cornerstone play of this offense.

“That’s going to change a lot of things,” receiver Tyler Slavin said of Scott being able to run in games.

“It’s going to change our offense from three dimensions to four dimensions — you know what I’m saying?

Not exactly, but we get the point.

“With him running,” Slavin said, “that’s just a different weapon.”

With Scott not really running on Saturday, he completed 22 of 35 passes for 315 yards, with four touchdowns and no interceptions.

The offense started slowly, with a fumble and an interception from quarterback hopeful Richard Morrison, but finished with a flourish. Arizona ran 98 plays, rushing for 152 yards and passing for 445.

Scott took a moment afterward to envision what the offense will look like in the fall.

“It’s going to be really hard with the backs we have — me running and them running — for the defense to cover that,” he said. “I don’t even think it’s possible.”

Meanwhile, coach Rich Rodriguez mostly has been trying to minimize expectations. He used this offense to nearly reach the national title game with West Virginia, and he knows it takes years to achieve that kind of success.

He did say that he put in more of the offense this spring than he originally intended — “probably too much,” he said — adding that the most important thing for Scott this summer will be to continue to strengthen his grasp of the offense.

“I shouldn’t expect too much with the first year in the system, but with Matt Scott I’m going to expect a lot,” Rodriguez said. “And I think Matt can deliver.”

In that sense, the spring was a success.

In other areas, it wasn’t. Rodriguez will spend the summer fretting about a lack of depth. He wants the defense to play with more speed. The offensive tempo is far from what it can, and will, be. He continues to lament the team’s overall lack of conditioning.

But the running backs had a spring worthy of Rodriguez’s commendations, led by Ka’Deem Carey, Daniel Jenkins and Kylan Butler. Taimi Tutogi, who flattened a few defenders while pin-balling for a 34-yard run Saturday, and Greg Nwoko offer big-back options.

Put it all together and you see a diverse running game, a respectable passing game … and then, in the fall, the quarterback run game.

Look at that: A three-dimensional offense.

Slavin laughed, realizing he might have overestimated the dimensions of the offense.

“Our linemen can take off, too,” he said with a laugh. “That’s our secret.”

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