The main focus of the entire Arizona Wildcats’ offseason will be on the quarterback position, but here are five other personnel questions as the team prepares to open spring ball Saturday:
1. The return of No. 25
Ka’Deem Carey gets back on the field after a no-good offseason, including bring charged with misdemeanor assault and disorderly conduct in a December incident with his pregnant ex-girlfriend.
A pretrial hearing is set for March 20, pushed back from Feb. 28.
The junior also was booted from a home Arizona basketball game Jan. 24 after getting into a verbal confrontation with a police officer.
Coach Rich Rodriguez said earlier this month that Carey was facing “internal discipline,” but the running back, at least for now, is with the team and is a full-go for spring ball.
“His process of making sure he shows the true person he is, is still ongoing,” Rodriguez said.
“He’s been good. We’ve got close tabs on him. He knows that. He knows he made a mistake and he has to prove what kind of person he is.”
It will be interesting to see how much Carey addresses the media this spring and when, or if, it will be safe for the Arizona athletic department to launch its planned publicity campaign around the “TeamKa’Deem” theme.
About a dozen players are unavailable (or very limited) for spring ball, including, oh, about half the potential starting lineup on defense.
It was suggested to me, tongue-in-cheek, that Arizona had half a defense last season, so half of a half means the Cats will have something like a quarter of a defense this spring. Or it just means more reps to get the young guys ready, and perhaps that’s not a bad thing.
So here’s the list of injured players:
OL Jacob Arzouman (knee), LB C.J. Dozier (shoulder), WR Trevor Ermisch (hernia), LB Marquis Flowers (shoulder), TE Nolan Heyer (knee), OL Lene Maiava (knee), CB Jonathan McKnight (shoulder), DE Dan Pettinato (knee), WR David Richards (foot), CB Shaquille Richardson (shoulder), QB Jesse Scroggins (foot), DL Kirifi Taula (shoulder).
“I don’t know if I’ve ever had a dozen guys out,” Rodriguez said. “That’s a lot.”
You probably recognize most of the names on that list, even the last name of Heyer, who is a new walk-on to the team. The sophomore from Orange Coast College is the brother of former Arizona pitching ace Kurt Heyer.
A limited number of available bodies is one reason why Rodriguez is emphasizing fundamentals over a lot of 11-on-11 full-contact work this spring. He said all the injured players “should be good to go in August.”
3. Who’s in the middle?
Starting center Kyle Quinn and backup Addison Bachman are gone, and the Cats don’t have anybody who has snapped the ball in a college game. Rodriguez, asked Tuesday who was going to be in the rotation at center this spring, replied: “I have no idea.”
Apparently, just about every offensive lineman has been working on shotgun snaps in informal offseason workouts.
Rodriguez even mentioned starting guard Chris Putton and starting left tackle Mickey Baucus. Other possibilities: Arzouman (who was in the mix at tackle last fall before his ACL injury), redshirt freshman Beau Boyster and junior Trent Spurgeon.
The job likely will fall to junior college transfer Steven Gurrola, who arrives in the summer.
“I’m not concerned about finding a starter,” Rodriguez said, “but I hope we can find seven or right linemen who we feel can play multiple positions and be comfortable with.”
4. How about those redshirts?
Arizona redshirted 12 scholarship freshmen last season who now get a bigger chance to show what they can do.
“When you get 18-, 19-year-olds, a lot of guys will make a big spike in their development, particularly in the first year,” Rodriguez said. “They’re still growing young men.”
Rodriguez didn’t specify anyone in particular, but here are four players whose development I am most intrigued to see this spring:
–DE Kyle Kelley (the pass rusher Arizona needs?)
–WR Trey Griffey (was said to be close to ready last year … and he’s a Griffey!)
–RB J.T. Washington (flashed plenty of juke-ability last fall, and backup job is up for grabs)
5. Special teams
New tight ends coach Charlie Ragle will oversee this group, although other position coaches will help with specific units. Arizona added firepower in the return game with its 2013 recruiting class, but has to replace its placekicker and punter.
At kicker, Syracuse/Youngstown State transfer Jake Smith recently was cleared to kick after recovering from a knee injury last fall. He had looked good in camp and was competing with John Bonano before the injury.
Last season’s backup, Casey Skowron, returns and Colorado State transfer Alex Ragsdale is eligible this season.
Arizona lists only one punter — sophomore Drew Riggleman from Sahuaro High.