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UA football

Arizona football: A look at who might be starting on offense

In a drill last week, Arizona quarterback B.J. Denker keeps the ball after a fake handoff to running back Ka'Deem Carey and then drops back to pass.

Every day when the Arizona Wildcats open practice, 11 offensive players line up in a formation and run a couple of plays against no defense.

Then, another group of 11 players lines up and does the same.

And so on.

But, 15 days before the UA's opener against NAU, coach Rich Rodriguez swears there isn't much rhyme or reason to those groups.

"There's no first group," Rodriguez said. "By the end of this week, two weeks before the game, you have to pare down who is going to get the quality reps. Not so much who's one or two. I've never been a big believer in that. Our twos get as many reps as our ones."

Fair enough.

But, at some point, Rodriguez and his staff will have to settle on a first-team offense and defense.

Things seem to be a bit clearer on the defensive side.

"There's nobody that has a starting job on offense yet," the coach said.

The UA has practiced 13 times this fall camp and has 12 more sessions before going into game-week mode on Aug. 26.

With that in mind, here's our best guess at what the first-team offense will look like on Aug. 30 based on what we've seen so far in camp.

We'll look at the defense Friday.


Predicted starter: B.J. Denker

Why: Despite his shaky start to camp, Denker is getting the most reps at the QB position. There may not be an actual first team right now, but Denker has worked exclusively with the first group this camp.

Keep an eye on: Nick Isham and Jesse Scroggins. Isham has been the most consistent and has received more reps as camp has progressed. Scroggins has become healthier as camp has gone on and is also trying to get into the mix.

Running back

Predicted starter: Ka'Deem Carey

Why: The Canyon del Oro High School graduate is obviously one of the best running backs in the country and has this job locked down. The only way Carey doesn't start Aug. 30 is if he's punished by Rodriguez for his offseason run-ins.

Keep an eye on: Daniel Jenkins. The senior will play plenty this year, both spelling Carey and in the slot. There's a chance both could actually start.

Wide receivers

Predicted starters: Terrence Miller, Garic Wharton and Johnny Jackson.

Why: Miller is a lock to start if he stays healthy. Wharton and Jackson bring experience, and the coaches know what they're getting from both of them. Wharton came on at the end of last season, and Jackson, a former walk-on, has done enough to earn a scholarship from Rodriguez.

Keep an eye on: Nate Phillips and Clive Georges. Phillips, a true freshman from Chandler Basha High School, has subbed for Jackson on the "first team" a couple of times this camp. Georges and Wharton seem to be locked in a good competition out wide.

Offensive line

Predicted starters: Mickey Baucus and Fabbians Ebbele (tackles), Chris Putton and Cayman Bundage (guards) and Steven Gurrola (center).

Why: Baucus, Ebbele and Putton seem certain to start against the Lumberjacks. Bundage played in 11 games as a true freshman last season with one start and has received plenty of reps. Gurrola, a junior college transfer, has spent a lot of time with the unofficial first group and seems to be adjusting decently.

Keep an eye on: Trent Spurgeon, Carter Wood and Jacob Arzouman. Wood, a nonscholarship transfer from Colorado Mesa, has received more reps as camp has gone on. Spurgeon has a miniplatoon going on with Bundage and Arzouman has also been active. Rodriguez has said he likes to play eight on the line.

Tight end/H-back

Predicted starter: Michael Cooper

Why: If the UA doesn't start Carey and Jenkins together or four wide receivers, you could see Cooper either at tight end or H-back (the position Taimi Tutogi played last year).

Keep an eye on: Former QB Josh Kern, who is a little more of a playmaker than Cooper.

Extra points

• Former Texas wide receiver Cayleb Jones, who committed to the UA on Tuesday, was with the Wildcats for Wednesday night's practice. Jones will have to sit out this season per NCAA rules.

The Austin native will have to wait four practices to put on pads and was just in a helmet, jersey and shorts on Wednesday.

"Cayleb is enrolled, accepted to school, had his physical and all his testing done," Rodriguez said. "We saw him, we knew about him, we talked to his coaches and family and some of the guys that played with him and feel good about it. I wish he could play this year, but we'll wait a year to get him going."

• Rodriguez and the UA still haven't heard back from the NCAA on the eligibility of receiver Davonte' Neal. The Notre Dame transfer is seeking to play right away. Rodriguez said he's hopeful he'll hear soon but doesn't have a timetable.

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

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