Dear Mr. Football: Some guy on the radio said UA freshman tailback Ka'Deem Carey is the greatest local football recruit ever at Arizona. E-V-E-R. Can that be right?
A: In 1981, Fred Sims was a first-team prep All-American from Sunnyside, who chose Oklahoma over Arizona. He was dynamic, a priority recruit by an OU program coming off a 32-4 streak. A day later, Cholla's Vance Johnson signed with Arizona. Johnson had a much better college career than Sims and was probably the most talented offensive football player, from Tucson, to play at Arizona.
Johnson ran 100 yards in 9.6 seconds and became the 1982 NCAA long jump champion. He was such a productive football player as a Cholla senior that he rushed for 1,382 yards, gained 621 yards on kick returns and passed for 433 yards.
In Johnson's UA debut 30 years ago next week, he caught six passes for 96 yards against UCLA and became the starter in week two, rushing for 69 yards against Cal. Even though he had a talented Brian Holland as competition, Johnson was fabulous as a freshman. He rushed for 654 yards, caught 22 passes and returned kickoffs and punts for 679 yards. He scored the deciding touchdowns in victories at No. 1 USC and at Oregon and completed his true freshman year by combining for 258 rushing yards against Fresno State and ASU.
To make the story even better, Johnson is Carey's uncle. The debate isn't whether Carey is the top local football recruit ever, but if he's the best in his own family.
Dear Mr. Football: Can Robert Anae capably coach five new offensive line starters?
A: Superstitious? Anae is the 13th offensive line coach since Arizona joined the Pac-10, and none of his predecessors had the challenge that he does.
It's funny how the line coaching assignments at Arizona have gone. In 1979, three men - Tony Yelovich, Karl Singer and Keith Rowen -combined to coach the OL. At other times, two coaches split the job, including Rowen and Mike Barry, Charlie Dickey and Jim Young.
It's likely that those who coached solo - Ron McBride, 1987-89, Pat Hill, 1990-91, Eric Wolford, 2004-06 - were as effective as any.
Anae is as big as his linemen, a towering, don't-get-on-my-bad-side dude who played for BYU's 1984 national champions and got his start in coaching on Dick Tomey's final Hawaii team, 1986.
"When he talks, you listen," UA junior center Kyle Quinn said. "He knows his business."
You are not going to get any colorful, Rex Ryan-type witticisms from the stoic Anae, but he's not going to be afraid to start five raw linemen, either.
I asked him if the state of Arizona's OL made him think twice about accepting a coaching job here.
"It didn't faze me a bit," he said. "To me, it's way more important for the guys to be committed to one another, to buy into what we're doing, than how many games they have under their belt. Trust is a big deal. There are times when all the lights go on. I'm very excited when that happens."
Dear Mr. Football: How long are these UA-NAU games going to continue?
A: The Wildcats and Lumberjacks are scheduled to play in Tucson in 2013, 2015, 2017 and 2019. NAU is getting paid $350,000 tonight and will also engage in early-season games against Arizona State in 2012 and 2016.
UA director of athletics Greg Byrne continues to examine playing a September game at University of Phoenix Stadium, but says it won't be against NAU and won't be at the expense of a home game in Tucson.
"We've discussed a 2013 game in Phoenix with a number of schools," he says. "What I'm trying to do is get a home-and-home series, with one game in Tucson and the other, in Phoenix, as the other team's 'home' game. I've got a couple of irons in the fire."
If he can pull that off, he'll be the AD of the Decade.
Dear Mr. Football: Has a UA player ever dropped off, one year to the next, as far as senior cornerback Trevin Wade did last year?
A: Wade puzzlingly went from 71 tackles to 47. He dropped from five interceptions to one. He fell from All-Pac-10 level to struggling just to get into the lineup.
The best comparison I can find is that of UA basketball player Isaiah Fox. He periodically beat out Channing Frye as a freshman, scored 144 points and, through two years, started 15 games. By his junior and senior seasons, Fox played so little that he scored just 74 points combined in 2003-04 and 2004-05.
The guess here is that Wade will be somewhere between his 2009 and 2010 performances this season.
Dear Mr. Football: Do fans really keep those chin straps and wristbands that UA players toss to them after the game?
A: Retired Tucson nurse and health care administrator Carol Oestreich, a season ticket holder for 25 years, used to sit in the old Knothole Gang seats in the 1950s when Art Luppino, the Cactus Comet, became a legendary running back.
"After one game, Art tossed his chinstrap to the kids and I caught it," Oestreich said this week. "I've still got it. He was the greatest."
Luppino, 77, lives near Austin, Texas.
Anyone out there got a Tedy Bruschi wristband? A Chuck Cecil chin strap?
Dear Mr. Football: Can Arizona beat Oklahoma State?
A: Yes, Thursday's game at OSU might preoccupy some UA fans, coaches and players tonight. That's understandable. In five games, Arizona has outscored NAU 168-59 since the series resumed in 2002 and that's about 33-10 on average.
Tonight, the Wildcats are likely to get a three-touchdown lead early, play vanilla offense, and get the starters off the field ASAP. That's why a spread of about 24 points is more probable than a blowout.
I think Arizona is better than it was a year ago, even without defensive backs Adam Hall and Joe McKnight. The only serious personnel loss is pass rusher Brooks Reed and, to a much lesser degree, offensive linemen Colin Baxter and Adam Grant.
How much better? Put your thumb and forefinger together. That is also the margin for error in the 11 games that follow tonight's opener.
Contact Greg Hansen at 573-4362 or at firstname.lastname@example.org