It's already Day 3 of Arizona football's camp, and we're already deep with knowledge about how the Wildcats will be faring come September. Juron Criner is back, the offensive line is inexperienced and the defense will be expected to bolster the team despite losing two NFL-level talents off the edge.
There's many question marks about those issues, of course. We can use that word "preview" to mention what the depth charts are looking like, but at this point, we're all writing the same things. If we get theoretical for a second, perhaps we can find some possible developments that could arise in camp through some metaphorical crystal ball that I don't have -- OK, so maybe these are just wild guesses and/or ideas that I think would make the Wildcats fun to watch this season.
Anyway, here are three things I think are miniscule-to-good possibilities.What if ... Stoops finds a kicker and special teams finds its magic?
The Wildcats don't have it so bad. Some teams just flat-out don't have kickers capable of hitting 30-yard field goals. It's tougher than you might think to find talent in that regard, and while kickers tend to score a lot of points for teams if they're capable, it's not like anyone's going out of their way to find elite ones.
But at Arizona, we know Alex Zendejas sometimes loves to kick it into the back of his O-line's heads. Luckily, he's redeeming in that he can also hit a 45-yarder out of the blue, so there's that. Head coach Mike Stoops said at media day that the kicking duties are going to be open for the taking between Zendejas and Jaime Salazar. Anyway, here's to guessing someone says "eff it" in camp and climbs the proverbial mountain of suckage into being a wildly consistent player.
And that of course, means the Wildcats could close out close games should they hang with the likes of Stanford, Oregon, USC and Oregon State early on.
Meanwhile, two other players stood out back during Arizona's Spring Game. Garic Wharton, the speed demon who I wrote this mini-feature on back in April, could be a home-run hitter (seriously, the dude is faster than anyone at Arizona I can remember). And punter Kyle Dugandzic launched a 70+ yard punt that nearly died on the 2-yard-line.
If special teams can find its mojo, one that was lost from the days of Antoine Cason and Mike Thomas returning kicks, or Nick Folk being The Man, the Wildcats will be in good shape.
What if ... the ACL injured platoon returns midway through the season?
Even if the Wildcats struggle through their blast-furnace of an early schedule, there's a string of winnable games thereafter. They could (and probably should) make lower-tied bowl game based on the talent they have ... things would have to go badly should they not.
Let's say, for interest's sake, Arizona pulls off an upset against one of Oklahoma State, Stanford, Oregon or USC, can handle Oregon State, and happens to defeat the two strong Pac-12 South Division teams in ASU and Utah. That's possible, and that's four good wins.
Then, if they handle business against what I'll call consistently-overrated teams in Washington and UCLA, can best the cellar-dwellars in Colorado, NAU and Louisiana-Lafayette, uh, that's a 10-win team.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not predicting such. But Arizona is capable of beating any of those teams should it play decently enough, and even if the OSU-Stanford-Oregon-USC monster kills them, they're not done for the season, per say. Yeah, I know there's things like confidence and trust that'll be shot should they struggle early, but it's not an end-all should they lose those games.
And injected with Adam Hall and Jake Fischer's presence midseason, Arizona might get a well-timed, much-needed lift to finish strong. Is it a curse that they, along with Willie Mobley and Greg Nwoko, went down? Or could it add some needed oomph following a mentally-challenging losing streak to begin the season?
What if ... Criner and Buckner go HAM?
Juron Criner is good. Dan Buckner can be good. Earlier this summer, it looked like Buckner might be flying solo this season with the rumors of Criner's illness. Turned out his mother was sick and he was simply out of Tucson to spend time with her. With Criner ready to go, the duo can be freakin' scary.
Buckner was supposedly torching safeties in Day 2 of football camp, so here's to guessing that this becomes the best 1-2 (or 1-1A) punch in the nation.
Well, that is if Foles has time to get off a pass behind his learning offensive line. But the duo's talent and speed is so immense, well, they should still be able to connect for some big plays, either way.