The Arizona Wildcats record sits unconscionably at 2-7. They have lost six straight games, with their performances in those six games getting worse by the week. How did Arizona get here? What can Arizona do over the course of their final three games to feel better (can’t get any worse) about their season?
Injuries have plagued the Wildcats from the start. Anu Solomon, the incumbent starter, went down after week 1. Brandon Dawkins was a breath of fresh air at the QB position before a rib injury and later, a concussion, would derail his redshirt sophomore season. Both quarterbacks played in the past two games and neither has looked even remotely similar to where they were at prior times in each of their careers, respectively. Elsewhere, it is well documented that Arizona is down to 1 healthy scholarship running back at this point in the season. Defensive injuries, especially to the linebackers unit, has caused players to constantly shift in and out. Overall, it is hard to find a unit for the Wildcats that holds the level of cohesiveness you would expect from a team 75% of the way through its season.
Offensive line, defensive line, and special teams have been absolutely brutal. In the coming months, there will be plenty of talk about whether Arizona should retain OL coach Jim Michalczik or special teams coordinator Charlie Ragle. The defensive units will likely get a pass with this being the first year under new defensive coordinator Marcel Yates. It takes time to get schemes fully implemented with college players. Another key reason for the defensive staff not being likely to have any changes is that it just so happens to possess some of Arizona’s best recruiters.
Rich Rodriguez made a conscientious decision to get a younger coaching staff and recruiting base last offseason, firing Jeff Casteel, who had served off and on as Rich Rod’s d-coordinator since his days at West Virginia. Also let go, along with Casteel, was cornerbacks coach David Lockwood, and-dline coach Bill Kirelawich. In their place, Vince Amey (d-line) and Donte Williams were hired. All are well-regarded recruiters. That, my friends, is what Arizona has to look forward to. Help is on the way in the form of fresh recruits.
Arizona’s 2017 class is widely ranked, at this point, as the #13 or #14 class in the country. Rich Rodriguez has said numerous times that it will be the best recruiting class he has amassed in his time at the helm of the Wildcats program. The class is anchored by QB Braxton Burmeister, RB Nathan TIlford, and DB Greg Johnson. With the state of the quarterback position being as it is and Arizona’s depth problems at the other two positions, look for all three to have a good shot at early playing time. Elsewhere, Arizona will try to rebuild its defensive depth with several LB and DB recruits.
In a year marred by preseason tragedy, the Wildcats have had little to hang their hat on. Who knows, maybe they upset top 15 Colorado this week? Maybe the true measure of success for this year will be whether or not they can beat Arizona State in the Territorial Cup. This year may seem like a lost one, but for better or worse, next year always comes. Reinforcements are on the way.