FOOTBALL

Arizona football: Questions still linger for deeper UA team

Quarterback quandary, loss of Hill among key concerns
2013-04-15T00:00:00Z 2013-04-16T19:28:42Z Arizona football: Questions still linger for deeper UA teamDaniel Berk Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
April 15, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Six weeks ago, the Arizona Wildcats entered spring practice with far more questions than answers.

Spring ball is now in the books and the Wildcats have found resolutions to some and are still searching for remedies for others.

"Some of the concerns we had coming in are still concerns in some respects," coach Rich Rodriguez said after Saturday's spring game. "I think we will have a deeper team coming into the fall than last year at this time, particularly on defense."

Before spring practice opened, we gave you the 13 most intriguing storylines. Here are 13 things we know now.

1. Ka'Deem Carey is in good standing. Carey rebounded from a rough December and January and impressed his coaches during spring practice. He looks faster and stronger than he did in 2012 when he led the nation in rushing. The Canyon del Oro High School graduate seems poised for a strong junior season and the Wildcats will need it.

2. The QB situation is still murky. B.J. Denker took command of the offense and certainly has the best grasp of Rodriguez's system. However, it remains to be seen if he has the most talent. USC transfer Jesse Scroggins, recovering from offseason toe surgery, played in the spring game and incoming freshman Anu Solomon figures to factor into the race in the fall.

3. Austin Hill's loss is a big one. The wide receiver tore his ACL in the team's final practice of the spring and will be sidelined for an extended period. He led the team in receiving last year and was developing into a big-time NFL prospect for the 2014 class. He could still play some in 2013, but won't have nearly the impact he would have if healthy.

4. The battle for place-kicker duties will carry into the fall. Jake Smith and Casey Skowron have a healthy competition going on at kicker and both seemed to have strong springs. Smith is recovering from a leg injury and is starting to regain his consistency and strength. Skowron, a walk-on from Phoenix Brophy Prep, was solid and gives the Wildcats a second option at the position.

5. Richard Morrison's move to defense was a good one. Morrison, the former wide receiver and quarterback, moved to cornerback at the start of the spring and had a good six weeks. His position coach, David Lockwood, said Morrison was a natural at the position and can certainly contribute there in the fall. Morrison will still likely be an understudy to the likes of Jonathan McKnight and Shaquille Richardson, and provide depth.

6. The team had a better second half of practice than first. Midway through spring practice, Rodriguez wasn't all that pleased with his team. He didn't think they were in shape and thought practices were too sluggish. As the second half went on, he seemed to enjoy his team more. He commented several times toward the end that the defense has far more depth than it did at the beginning of camp and thought Denker did a good job of running the offense.

7. The new coaches fit right in. The Arizona staff is made up mostly of coaches who have worked with Rodriguez in the past. He promoted two coaches, Charlie Ragle (assistant director of operations in 2012) and Matt Caponi (a graduate assistant in 2012). He also hired Jim Michalczik from Cal and all three seem to fit in perfectly. Like Rodriguez and the rest of his staff, they are fiery and intense.

8. There are no new uniforms - yet. We thought we may get a peek at some new uniforms this spring, but it didn't happen. The UA said it's still up in the air, but expect some changes before the Wildcats open the 2013 season. What will they look like? We don't know yet.

9. RB Jared Baker has some serious speed. Baker, a sophomore from Los Angeles, seems to have a beat on the backup running back job. He showed his blazing speed often this spring and was good in all three scrimmages. The coaches worked with him on not dancing as much behind the line of scrimmage and instead just hitting the hole and letting his speed take over.

10. The freshman wide receivers are fun to watch. The trio of Trey Griffey, Jarrell Bennett and Clive Georges sure entertains. It may be a little bit before they contribute - the wide receiver position for the Wildcats is loaded - but they will all help eventually. Georges can make plays in the open field and Griffey is a big, physical presence who improved all spring. Keep an eye out for all three.

11. Defensive lineman Kyle Kelley looks comfortable. The freshman, who redshirted 2012, should help the Wildcats' defensive line in 2013. He had three tackles, one sack and a pass breakup in the spring game. The defensive line will likely play seven or eight players and Kelly should be in the rotation.

12. The defense needs to get healthy. There were injuries on both sides of the ball, but the defense was far more affected this spring. The unit gave up almost 500 yards of offense per game in 2012 and needs to be better this season. In order for that to happen, the mainstays of the defense, Marquis Flowers, Jake Fischer, Richardson and McKnight all need to stay healthy.

13. The offensive line will be a strength. Anchored by two pro-sized prospects in tackles Mickey Baucus and Fabbians Ebbele, the offensive line should flourish in Rodriguez's second season. Guards Chris Putton and Cayman Bundage both have a lot of game experience and there are a handful of solid candidates for the fifth spot. This all has to make Carey very happy.

On StarNet: Keep up with the Arizona Wildcats football team at azstarnet.com/uafootball

Contact reporter Daniel Berk at dberk@azstarnet.com or 573-4330. On Twitter @DSBerk.

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