One thing Arizona has going for it is depth at running back.
The Cats were without their top three runners at Saturday’s scrimmage. Starter Nic Grigsby has been bothered by a hamstring injury, Keola Antolin took the day off from nagging injuries (the coaches are well aware of what he can do) and Greg Nwoko is sitting out the spring because of a shoulder injury.
So redshirt freshman Daniel Jenkins was the main man in the backfield, rushing 16 times for 91 yards.
“I think it was a good day for the offense as a whole,” Jenkins said. “But there is always room for improvement. Gotta keep working.”
Jenkins has a similar build to Grigsby, at 5-9, 187 pounds, although Grigsby, a senior, has used his age advantage to bulk up and be a bit bigger than that. Nobody on the team has Grigsby’s cutting ability, but Jenkins appears to have a nice blend of moves and speed.
At Saturday’s scrimmage, he broke off a 30-yard run and later scored on a 9-yard rush on fourth-and-3. He bounced that carry to the outside and sprinted into the end zone untouched around left end.
“Daniel is improved,” coach Mike Stoops said. “We knew he was a talented player. I think he continues to get better. Shows some elusiveness, has some strength and balance. A lot of good things.”
Jenkins is one of two redshirt freshman — Kylan Butler is the other — behind the three returning running backs. Butler has been getting ample practice time this spring, too, although he had only three carries Saturday.
Stoops also used fullback/H-back Taimi Tutogi in one-back sets Saturday. The powerful player — he’s 6-1, 258 — had six carries for 37 yards. He had an impressive moment last Wednesday in practice when he flattened cornerback Trevin Wade near the goal line en route to a touchdown.
Stoops nearly ripped the redshirt off Jenkins late last season when Grigsby, Antolin and Nwoko were all battling injuries before the Nov. 7 game against Washington State. But Arizona got by in the 48-7 rout with a little of Antolin and help from now-departed Greg Booth and Tatogi.
Jenkins spent most of his time last season on the scout team. He was a four-star recruit by Rivals.com out of Rancho Verde High School in Moreno Valley, Calif.
“It beat me up,” Jenkins said of not playing last season. “It ate me up from the inside out. But I got a lot of work in with Coach Ed (strength coach Corey Edmond), and I came back this season ready to play.”
Playing time might be limited for Jenkins if everyone stays, but all that will get sorted out.
“Right now, I’m just focusing on getting into the system and learning all the plays correctly,” he said. “Hopefully, I will work my way up the rotation as we go along.”