Freshman Ka'Deem Carey's ability to shoulder a sizable portion of the rushing load will open opportunities for Keola Antolin (above).
The "Freshman 15" is something most first year UA students strive to avoid. Either through keg beer or too often frequenting Los Betos, the Freshman 15 comes on quickly. Ka’Deem Carey isn’t like most freshman. He will seek to pack on his own version of the Freshman 15 much sooner than later – and his ability to do so could dictate the success of Arizona’s offense.
The Canyon del Oro product finds himself in a role tailbacks Nic Grigsby and Mike Bell filled before him, called upon to rush a double-digit amount per game. Carey must be that rare freshman who can have his number called 15 times a game to open the field for his quarterback and the passing game.
There is no coincidence Arizona’s slide to end 2010 came with Grigsby dinged up. Keola Antolin’s best work comes when sharing duties with a more prototypical, every-down back. In late season losses to USC and Arizona State, Antolin handled the vast majority of rushing duties and managed fewer than four yards per attempt. With his small frame and pass catching abilities out of the backfield, Antolin is a more traditional third down back. That is where Carey comes in, and could be expected to shoulder a 15-carry per night kind of load.
Injuries to short yardage back Greg Nwoko and speedster Daniel Jenkins make Carey’s presence all the more vital. Receiving his college christening against Northern Arizona might seem just the ticket, but the Lumberjacks were the fifth best rush defense in the Football Championship Subdivision. Saturday will be no cakewalk, but if Carey can get fat on a steady diet of rushes from the onset, it will keep the Wildcats’ scoring totals plump.
What separate Carey’s ascension from prep standout to immediate college option are the instant expectations upon him. Grigsby stormed the scene as a surprise breakout in the Wildcats’ 2007 defeat of Washington State. That particular UA team entered the campaign with Chris Jennings and Xavier Smith expected to man the feature back role, but Grigsby burst into said duty unexpectedly. Carey’s name, on the other hand, is cropping up in virtually every UA media source without logging a single stat.
Kevin Zimmerman right here at AZDesertSwarm.com chronicled his impressive showing at the fall scrimmage. Anthony Gimino wrote in The Tucson Citizen coaches are singing the freshman’s praises for his physicality. Long-time fixture on the UA beat Steve Rivera documented Carey’s impact on FOXSportsArizona.com, but also highlighted the newcomer’s own emphasis on learning.
Of course, if there’s any one challenge more daunting than the rest facing a freshman it is learning.\Maybe Carey isn’t so different from his fellow campus newbies, after all.