WRITER’S NOTE: Here’s a feature to go with our countdown of the Top 50 football players in Arizona Wildcats history. We take a look at some of the best “one-year wonders” who didn’t make the Top 50.
To find arguably the best one-year wonder in University of Arizona football history, you have to go all the way back to … last season.
UA never has had a first-team all-conference quarterback since joining the Pac-10 (now Pac-12) in 1978, but Matt Scott was firmly in the discussion last season until concussion problems contributed to a tepid November.
Scott, with the right blend of arm and athleticism in the read-option offense, still earned second-team All-Pac-12 honors behind Oregon’s Marcus Mariota, giving first-year coach Rich Rodriguez the kind of quarterback boost he didn’t have when he started his troubled three-year run at Michigan.
He finished in style, too, throwing two touchdown passes in the final minute of the New Mexico Bowl, rallying the Wildcats to a wild 49-48 victory and stealing Offensive MVP honors after the media had voted midway through the fourth quarter for Wolf Pack quarterback Cody Fajardo.
Scott led Arizona to an optimism-building 8-5 record, finally fulfilling the promise of a career that failed to launch in 2009, when he started the first three games of the season before giving way to Nick Foles through 2011.
Scott’s one big season — No. 2 in school history in total offense (4,126 yards), No. 3 in passing yards (3,620), No. 3 in touchdown passes (27) — earned him a spot in Arizona lore, even if it wasn’t enough to land him on our top 50 countdown of the program’s greatest players.
Scott had attempted 176 passes in his UA career before becoming the full-time starter last season.
“That was partially why he was frustrated — not having an opportunity to go out and compete,” said former UA quarterbacks coach Frank Scelfo, now with the Jacksonville Jaguars, where Scott is trying to make the team as an undrafted rookie.
“He and I both felt he just needed some time to play. He didn’t really have a lot of snaps. And for him to have the kind of season he did, that’s a tribute to the staff there because they were able to use him in a way that takes advantage of his talent.”
Other one-year wonders at Arizona who are not in our top 50 countdown:
–Anthony Smith, defensive lineman. The transfer from Alabama played only one season for coach Dick Tomey, turning in a first-team All-Pac-10 performance in 1989. The Raiders then picked him at No. 11 overall in the NFL draft — the fifth-highest selection ever for a UA player.
–Yusuf Scott, offensive guard. Scott went from an unheralded starting guard in 1997 to the best road grader in the Pac-10, winning the Morris Trophy as the conference’s top offensive lineman, as voted by the defensive linemen.
Scott, who arrived at UA as a defensive tackle, was a gregarious 330-pounder whose success in 1998 compelled the school’s sports information office to report weekly on his “pancake” blocks. He left after his junior season, cementing his spot among the one-year wonders. Scott, a fifth-round pick, played in 24 games across three seasons with the Cardinals before being out of the NFL.
–Kelvin Eafon, running back. Recruited as a guard for Lute Olson’s basketball team, Eafon spent two seasons as a backup on the hardcourt before switching to a football scholarship. He had a stout fullback build and a take-charge toughness in the locker room that Tomey dearly loved.
Eafon showed his value as a junior, running for 408 yards, but his senior season was special. The short-yardage specialist was a perfect contrast to the rocket-fueled long runs of Trung Canidate. Eafon scored 16 touchdowns and served as the inspirational offensive captain for the 1998 squad that went 12-1.