EUGENE OR - NOVEMBER 26: Quarterback Nick Foles #8 of the Arizona Wildcats throews a pass against the Oregon Ducks on November 26 2010 at the Autzen Stadium in Eugene Oregon. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
The rapper E-40 represents the Bay Area with his outlandish lyrics and smooth style. He was somewhat of an underground movement and didn't exactly establish himself throughout mainstream hip-hop until his 2006 release of "Tell Me When To Go."
It reminds me a bit of this Arizona football team and its history. They've perpetually been on the outside looking in when it came down to challenging the Pac-10 (now Pac-12) powerhouses for league championships.Rarely has the nation and college football world recognized them as being in consideration. Will this 2011 season before their coming out party, their "Tell Me When To Go?"
When they peaked in 1998 under Dick Tomey it came before a giant dropping off point, a larger-scale example that showed the Wildcats just can't get over that hump.
Last season, they were in the Top-10 in the nation before flopping in the homestretch of the season. They've grasped to a mantra of "All In; No Looking Back" this offseason, making Nike Livestrong-esque wristbands to remind themselves to be a family, commit to the team and forget the past.
So while NAU won't be the biggest challenge (or shouldn't be), Saturday we'll finally see what this supposed unity has brought about. But on a more micro-level, how will the Wildcats this year show that they are ready to make the leap, showing the NCAA football world that they're not going to go 2-7, as Sports Illustrated predicted, in the new Pac-12?Of course, the big name for me is Nick Foles.
I've been quite the critic of him in the past. I know he has the NFL intangibles -- the strong arm, the size. But I questioned his willingness to throw the ball down the field and also wondered if a guy with the speed of Matt Scott makes the offense more than one dimensional as does Foles.
I've been going to the first two weeks of practices, and I can only say that there should be no worries about Foles. He's the last player to leave, often spending time doing passing drills with receivers who stick around before throwing balls around with coaches kids AND before being kind enough to chat with us media folk.
Quarterbacks coach Frank Scelfo said it best:
"I've coached a first round pick, Patrick Ramsey, another first round pick J.P. Lawson, a second round pick in Shaun King; the one thing that NIck has in common with those guys? They're the hardest working guys on the team."
And then you've got to ask about the wide receiving core. There's been much hype about them, but outside of Juron Criner and David Douglas, who will step up come gametime? Can Terrence Miller continue his growth, and will Richard Morrison continue to impress as he did in the (sorry to bring it up) Alamo Bowl of 2010?
For sure, there's talent. But as defenses drop back to cover the Arizona spread, will the receivers be able to make catches after creating throwing windows for Foles?
Something else to keep an eye upon is the defense as a whole. Last season, the Wildcats struggled in the defensive backfield, often getting burned on longballs. Otherwise they were pretty solid. Still, there wasn't a playmaker on that side of the ball outside of the defensive ends. That, until safety Adam Hall came into his own as the season aged.
So with Hall out with an ACL tear, not to mention Jonathan McKnight, who coaches were very high on, who's going to step up? Former defensive coordinator Mark Stoops called Robert Golden a replica of Giants safety and my former Arizona Cardinals man-crush Antrel Rolle, so is it possible Golden can become a monster ball-hawk as he moves to the safety position? For sure, he's been coined as the defensive vocal leader as the season approaches.
Oddly enough, we forget that this IS a Stoops-coached team. Don't be surprised if the fan ratio of offensive-intoxication to defensive-apathy reverses as we realize that we didn't give the D enough respect and we kind of prematurely crowned the offensive players' asses.