According to Rich Rodriguez, the Arizona Wildcats had an open quarterback competition this summer. Few saw that as legit. In fact, many surmised that it was a ploy to try to motivate the incumbent starter, redshirt junior Anu Solomon. After all, Solomon is the former four star recruit, the one on the preseason Davey O’Brien award watch list (given annually to the best collegiate quarterback), and the quarterback well on his way to breaking several Arizona all-time passing records. Dawkins, a redshirt sophomore, played admirably against ASU in the regular season finale a year ago, but had no other collegiate playing experience. Now, after two strong showings from Dawkins, is it enough for Rich Rod to ditch Solomon for potentially greener pastures?
Solomon played the entire season opener against BYU. He struggled to get in any rhythm, with UA mustering only three points through the first three quarters. He would finish the game with 213 yards on 20-30 passing, with -20 rushing yards on 7 attempts. He also threw 2 interceptions with 0 touchdowns. Solomon is a seasoned pocket passer. He hesitates to run the ball and when he does, he has had an unlucky knack for getting injured (many would cite his refusal to slide early and some unfair hits when he does). After injuring his knee in practice two weeks ago, it would appear fair to assume that his already lacking mobility would be further inhibited now. But he knows the offense best out of any Arizona quarterback. He is in his fourth season around this scheme; he knows how to get the ball out quickly and has a general pre-snap awareness of where the ball should go. With his penchant for taking sacks at inopportune times and throwing interceptions off sometimes careless throws, is it possible that he has lost his lock on the QB1 spot?
Brandon Dawkins has people excited. Finally, Rich Rod seemingly has the mobile quarterback his offense can thrive with. Through two starts, he has amassed 458 passing yards, going 31-50 with 2 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. At the same time, he has 215 yards rushing on 31 attempts, with 5 touchdowns. His running ability not only is a huge weapon on its own, it opens up parts of the passing game with defenses having to contribute another defender to watch for the QB run. Dawkins brings back memories of the elite athletes Rich Rod has had at the quarterback position, like Pat White and Denard Robinson. While Dawkins lacks their elite speed, he is also a more talented and natural thrower. It says a lot that Dawkins has done enough so quickly to even make this a conversation.
While Dawkins has had two good starts, improving vastly in the second after a solid initial performance, it should be noted that one was against an FCS opponent while the other was against a terrible FBS defense. Solomon struggled against a good BYU defense. Washington and its vaunted defense come to Tucson Saturday. It is going to be an extremely tough matchup for any quarterback, whether they have two career starts or over 20. It’s difficult to imagine coach Rodriguez being comfortable with going away from Anu at this point in the season if he is healthy. But whether or not Solomon is healthy enough to play this weekend is still uncertain. Regardless, many fans want Dawkins to play. He has the higher ceiling of the two. He has gained invaluable experience in the past two weeks. If Solomon is healthy enough, expect him to start. But don’t be surprised to see Dawkins replace him if he struggles out of the gate in any game.