The Arizona Wildcats’ first-time starter at running back rushed for 147 yards.
Their starting middle linebacker, coming back from an ACL injury, led the Cats in tackles.
A first-time starting safety, a former walk-on, was deemed the team’s defensive player of the week.
These competing, encouraging, storylines share something in common:
Ka’Deem Carey, Jake Fischer and Jared Tevis are played their high school ball in Oro Valley, north of Tucson.
“We’re out there making plays,” said Carey, a sophomore who played with Tevis at Canyon del Oro High School. “I think we just wanted to do it for our city. We always talk about it — to play as hard as we can for our city.”
Let’s break down the local breakout players in the opening 24-17 victory over Toledo:
RB Ka’Deem Carey
Carey, who had a tantalizingly good season as a true freshman behind Keola Antolin, carried 20 times for 147 yards, both career highs. The highlight was a 73-yard burst up the middle, with Carey weaving among tacklers diving at his legs.
“As a running back you have to pick up your legs, because they’re coming after your legs, just because you’re a big dude,” said Carey.
At about the 15, he had to take a right turn to run away from pursuing cornerback Chris Dukes.
“When you break a long one, you’re not going to be like, ‘This last person is going to tackle me,’” Carey said. “So you’re going to give it all you got, kick it into that second gear and break away from him.”
Carey had three other runs of more than 10 yards but had trouble finding any sort of running room on many of his carries. He gained two yards or fewer on 11 of his 20 carries.
“He ran pretty hard,” coach Rich Rodriguez said.
“Ka’Deem is a good football player. He’s a tough guy. He loves the game. I wish we could have got him loose a couple more times.”
This was the first 100-yard game of Carey’s career. Carey, the gem of Mike Stoops’ 2011 recruiting class, rushed 91 times for 425 yards and six touchdowns last season.
LB Jake Fischer
Fischer, an Ironwood Ridge High graduate who tore his ACL late in the 2011 spring game, returned to the field with a team-high 13 tackles, including 2.5 for loss, both career highs.
He had eight tackles at halftime against Toledo, one more than his previous career high for a game.
“I loved it. There was a ton of emotions,” he said of playing again. “I just worked my tail off to get back. I’m just glad we got a win. I think that’s what matters most.”
Fischer, a junior, recently moved from outside linebacker to middle linebacker in UA’s 3-3-5 scheme. He can handle any of the linebacker spots.
“I know it killed him last year to not be out there, but you can see the immediate impact he has and the aura he brings with him on the field,” Tevis said. “It was great to be out there playing with him, first of all, and then just to see him play so well.”
S Jared Tevis
Tevis, a sophomore who was a special teams player last season, quickly caught the eye of Rodriguez in the spring with his hustle and hitting. What he lacks in stature as a major college safety — he’s 5-10, 197 — he makes up for with that big chip on his shoulder.
“The kid flies to the ball,” Fischer said.
“He had to earn his scholarship. He went out there every day and competed his butt off. He’s smacking people in practice, too. That translates to the field. He had a couple of nice hits (Saturday) night, so I’m proud of the kid.”
When the coaches selected their players of the week Sunday, Tevis got the nod for defense. He played all 94 plays on defense, as did Fischer, making 12 tackles and breaking up two passes.
“I was really feeling more tired in the second quarter than I was in the fourth,” Tevis said. “I kind of sucked it up and that second wind kind of kicked in. It was a tiring game, but we knew we had to push through it.”