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Stoops filling out Arizona Wildcat depth charts, running backs optimistic

TUCSON - Arizona Wildcats head coach Mike Stoops pretty much admitted after Tuesday's football practice that it's obvious that nothing is obvious. With depth charts still being mixed and matched in practice, that could be good or bad.

Four ACL injuries had something to do with it. So does losing a number of players to the NFL. Three defensive ends, a game-breaking running back and an entire offensive line all gone, the Wildcats are leaning on some young guys to fill out the available playing time. Now, Stoops just wants to figure out who to trust come Sept. 3.

Stoops was jolly and joking following Tuesday's practice, where he could only say that every one of his players was improving. Of course, he'd love to have it all figured out, but there's still time before decisions need to be final.

"I think we're getting closer on both sides of the ball," Stoops said of deciding on who to start. "Just trying to get 11 on both sides, 22, that'd be a bonus. We're getting closer."

On special teams, Stoops did give hints as to the major players for kick returns, punt returns and kicking duties.

Speedy Garic Wharton and freshman Ka'Deem Carey, who shined at Saturday's scrimmage, will see time on kick returns. Punt returns will be handled by cornerback Jonathan McKnight -- he's already solidified his starting corner spot while Trevin Wade and Shaquille Richardson will fight for the other -- or receiver David Douglas.

And of course, there's the kicking game. Jaime Salazar, the JC transfer, has a slight edge in front of Alex Zendejas, but he hasn't quite pulled away. Neither kicker has shown the consistency Stoops -- or you -- would like.

"We'll continue to compete as we go through," Stoops said.

"I think you have to have a reliable kicker," he added. "It just makes your offense do things in the redzone. You've got to have three points when you get down there. Right now, it's too inconsistent."

Pass, pass, run


Should the Wildcats be concerned that a new offensive line and an iffy run game last season will hamper their offense again this year? Not so, according to Stoops and crew, who admit they'll toss the ball sometimes 50 attempts per game.

"It's going to open up the run game for us," said No. 1 running back Keola Antolin. "If you throw the ball 50 times, the run game is going to be there eventually. Our run game is going to be way better than last year; different blocking schemes and stuff."

Antolin said the team will use more zone blocking schemes and that the results have been obvious in camp. Plus, Arizona now has diverse options in the backfield. Antolin, back-up Daniel Jenkins and natural runner in freshman Carey all bring something different to the table. 


Said Antolin of the crew of backs:

"From week one until now, it's getting really good. (We're) playing as a unit instead of playing as individuals."