Ka'Deem Carey thought for a second and laughed. Yes, he admitted, he's pretty good at beating the first 10 players who try to tackle him.

It's the last guy who drives him nuts.

"Your heart drops when you see just one guy to beat, and it hurts that it's always that one guy who gets you," Carey said. "You have to work hard to make sure that one guy doesn't get you."

And so Carey runs, looking for the first breakout play of his college career.

He's getting closer. Carey put up 77 total yards and caught a 41-yard pass, the the longest play of his college career, in Arizona's loss at Washington last weekend.

So far this season, Carey - a true freshman who prepped at Canyon del Oro High School - has rushed 66 times for 274 yards and caught nine passes for 140 yards. His five touchdowns provide a glimpse of a bright future, one that will continue when the Wildcats face Utah in Saturday's homecoming game.

"He's been somebody that, every week, has stepped up and made some big plays for us," offensive coordinator Seth Littrell said. "We've got to find different ways to get him the football. He's just got to continue to play and get the ball in his hands even more."

Carey said he is "transitioning good" to the speed and difficulty of college football, one that includes more than just running the ball. Carey's pass-blocking has improved exponentially since Week 1; his ability to catch passes - a must in the Wildcats' "Air Zona" offense - is making him an even more valuable weapon.

After catching just three passes in as many weeks to start the season and none in Week 4 against Oregon, Carey has grabbed six balls for 127 yards and a score. The UA backs will be used more as pass-catchers Saturday against a Utah defense that's the best in the Pac-12.

The Utes are surrendering just 91 rushing yards per game, which ranks 11th nationally. They allow just 20.63 points per game.

Senior Keola Antolin said the UA backs will try to crack Utah's tough front; but if that doesn't work, they're prepared to do other things.

"The running backs have got to pass-block so we can get the ball off," he said. "We can get into the checkdowns, too, get in front of Nick's (Foles') face a little bit."

Carey was a bit more succinct.

"I feel like if we gets hats on hats, some seams will open up," he said. "And if not, the passing will be there."

The attitude is a welcome - and realistic - change from a year ago, when Carey ran over, around and through all of his high school opponents. The CDO star caught just four passes as a senior.

Now, limited by the Wildcats' scheme and the speed of a new level of competition, the dynamic freshman is learning to play smarter.

Eventually, the big plays will come.

"I feel like, in this offense, you've got to run the ball, block and catch the ball," he said. "We practice hard on that each and every day."

Up next

• What: Utah at Arizona

• When: 4 p.m. Saturday

• TV; radio: Channel 58, FSAZ Plus; 1290-AM, 107.5-FM, 990-AM (Sp)

Bellotti denies UA speculation

Former Oregon coach Mike Bellotti told a Portland, Ore., newspaper Thursday that "there is nothing to" rumors that he will be the Arizona Wildcats' football coach.

"That's the easiest thing I can say," he told The Oregonian after Internet speculation linked Bellotti to the UA job, which opened when Mike Stoops was fired. But Bellotti, now an ESPN analyst, said it isn't true.

There are connections between Arizona and Oregon: UA athletic director Greg Byrne's father, Bill, was the Ducks AD when Bellotti was hired as the offensive coordinator in 1989. Bellotti was promoted to head coach in 1995, and went 116-55 before being promoted to AD following the 2008 season. Byrne and Bellotti have stayed in touch.

Byrne has vowed to stay silent during the coaching search. Bellotti said the rumors have been flattering.

"Every year, it's always nice to hear your name associated with jobs," Bellotti told The Oregonian. "The first thing I have to do is determine what my job is with ESPN and where I want to go with that."