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AZ Desert Swarm Spam Folder: The latest delivery of responses to reader questions

arizona-wildcats-spam-folder-questions-responses-readers-soccer-triathlon-softball-nick-foles Joel Angel Juarez/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK

This is the fifth edition of the AZ Desert Swarm Spam Folder, our summer mailbag that we hope to continue into the fall and beyond. That depends on you, dear readers, to continue to send in questions that our staff will do their best to answer.

Here’s the latest batch:

Will Nick Foles’ single season passing yardage record of 4,334 be in danger this year?

There wasn’t much to be proud of from Arizona’s 2011 season, though it did produce one of the best college football moments ever: the fake ref, who became a streaker, which preceded an on-field brawl with UCLA. The Wildcats went 4-8 that year, starting 1-5 before Mike Stoops was fired and Tim Kish finished out the season with a 3-3 record.

And lost in that otherwise forgetful season was Nick Foles throwing for more passing yards (4,334) than anyone else in UA history.

The redshirt senior, who would go on to become the first (and only) Arizona QB taken in the NFL Draft, also tied the single-season school touchdown record with 28. That mark was established by Willie Tuitama in 2008 and matched by Anu Solomon in 2014.

Both records could fall this season if Jayden de Laura can build off his breakout 2022 season, when he threw for 3,685 yards and 25 TDs. For that to happen, though, probably requires two things: that de Laura remains healthy and Arizona gets into a bowl game for the first time since 2017.

When Foles set the mark he did so in 12 games, averaging 361.1 yards per contest. He never threw fewer than 239 yards, topping the 300-yard mark 10 times and topping out at 425.

De Laura had six 300-yard games, threw of which went over 400 including his 484-yard, six-TD performance against Colorado. But he also for fewer than 250 yards five times, including a season low of 159 against Utah and only 200 against ASU when Arizona went heavy on the run to take back the Territorial Cup.

Arizona averaged 318.4 passing yards per game last season, 6th-best in the country. Spread that over 13 games, including a bowl, and that’s still only 4,139. So the Wildcats will also have to throw more, or at least more efficiently, than a year ago for Foles to get knocked off the top of the school passing list.

Any word on Arizona softball’s progress in the NCAA transfer portal? Are they actively recruiting anyone?

While everyone is probably wondering if Arizona will get an impact pitcher from the portal, the biggest news on the transfer front has to do with Oklahoma freshman Jocelyn Erickson. Word is that Arizona is recruiting her and seems to be doing well.

Erickson entered the portal the final week of the window (which closed on Jun. 30), so her recruitment is in the early stages. There are reasons to believe Arizona might be a preferred landing place, though. She is from the Phoenix area. She was the 2022 Arizona Gatorade Player of the Year. She played travel ball for OC Batbusters-Stith alongside several current and incoming Wildcats. Arizona was also one of the schools she was considering when she committed to the Sooners.

There are also reasons to think Arizona might not be her ultimate choice. She’s a member of the LDS church and both of her sisters played for BYU for at least parts of their careers. She also seems to be looking for a bigger role than OU offered her.

Erickson is a catcher, but her time on defense for the Sooners was mostly spent at first base. She could well take over first base in 2025 after Carlie Scupin graduates, but it’s not a spot that’s open right now. As for catcher, Arizona has Olivia DiNardo at the position as well as incoming freshman Emily Schepp. They also have a top catcher committed for the 2025 season in Emma Kavanagh.

There’s always the possibility of moving DiNardo to another position, as well. One possibility is third base, but that would mean finding a place for Blaise Biringer. Biringer is a middle infielder by trade but has played outfield, third, and designated player at Arizona. She has been a very consistent hitter for Arizona, but she doesn’t have the power that Erickson appears to have.

The final option would be using one of the catchers or Biringer as the designated player. DiNardo did that some this season. Biringer spent much of her first season in Tucson at that spot. Erickson might be an option, as well.

Erickson would solve a lot of problems for Arizona going forward. The Wildcats had just two catchers on the roster last year, and the absence of Izzy Pacho for a few weeks forced Tayler Biehl to train as the backup catcher. With the wear and tear of the position, having three is probably a good idea. Erickson also provides an heir apparent at first base.

The question is how much she’s willing to adapt next season considering who is currently on Arizona’s roster. That could ultimately be the deciding factor in where she lands. In addition to Arizona and OU, she reportedly considered UCLA, Arizona State, Oregon, and BYU before going to Norman.

Are there any other sports that Arizona could add in the future?

Arizona will introduce women’s triathlon to its register of athletic teams this fall, becoming the 22nd sport the school offers. It’s the first new sport since beach volleyball began play in 2014.

What’s next, and when? Both answers are speculative at best.

Title IX requires athletic departments to be as balanced as possible when it comes to men’s and women’s teams, most notably in the form of scholarship allocation. That’s all but impossible for schools like Arizona that field football, since that comes with an 85-scholarship cap that’s more than two-third of the 123.5 scholarships available for the UA’s women’s sports. The UA men’s sports other than football combine to provide 56.2 scholarships, leaving a 17.7-scholarship gap.

So if Arizona were to add another sport in the near future, odds are it would be on the women’s side. And if we had to guess, it would be lacrosse.

Since becoming a Division I sport in 1982, lacrosse has increased its numbers almost every year. There will be 127 playing in 2024, with South Florida the latest to add, while Charlotte and Rhode Island will start in 2025.

But there are just six current Pac-12 schools sponsor women’s lacrosse: ASU, Cal, Colorado, Oregon, Stanford and USC. That will drop to five in a year with USC (and UCLA) going to the Big Ten, and there are only two other schools west of the Rocky Mountains (San Diego State, UC Davis) play the sport, so it would mean a lot of travel if Arizona were to go in that direction.

Women’s rugby and water polo are also options, as could ice hockey with a new facility set to open up on Tucson’s south side in a few years where the men’s club team will play.

Could Arizona add another men’s sport at some point? Yes, but that would probably require replacing one that’s not performing well with another, thus creating a new scholarship gain, and none of the UA’s non-revenue men’s sports are struggling enough to even consider that.

What are the projections for UA soccer this year? And how would you rate Becca Moros’ performance as a coach?

Becca Moros had her doubters because of the style of soccer she is insistent on playing. Many of those doubters were quieted when her team came together halfway through the season, upset USC, and narrowly missed the NCAA Tournament in just her second season.

It’s not like there was a massive overhaul of the roster between Moros’ first and second seasons. In fact, she lost the program’s career leader in goals scored after her first season only to see her team improve in the second year. That has to inspire some confidence in the ability of Moros and her staff to teach the principles of possession football.

The other thing weighing in Moros’ favor is how her players feel about her. Not only do they seem happy, but some have explicitly stated that they are happier playing the style Moros prefers than they were with the style of previous head coach Tony Amato.

Moros does have some holes to fill this year. Madi Goerlinger played middle back last year. She left after graduating and began her career away from soccer. She has since decided to play her extra pandemic-related year, but she’ll be doing it at UC Irvine.

Angela Baron may have been an option to take over for Goerlinger, but she turned professional after her freshman year and is now on Colombia’s Women’s World Cup team. Arizona does have several other young defenders on the roster, though, and Moros has floated the idea of putting midfielder Megan Chelf back there.

On offense, Jordan Hall had a strong season last year. The senior forward played in just 15 of Arizona’s 18 games, starting 10 of them. On a per-minute basis, she was Arizona’s top goal-scorer. She ended the year with four goals and two assists, tying for the team high in points with 10. Of the players who had at least 10 shots, she had the highest percentage placed on goal.

Sami Baytosh also returns to try to build on a big freshman season. She played in all 18 games and started 12 of them. The midfielder finished with eight points with two goals and a team-high four assists.

It was offense by committee last year with only Hall, Baytosh, and team leader Nicole Dallin scoring more than one goal. Dallin’s five goals tied her for the team high in points. Eleven players scored at least one goal. Ten had at least one assist with Hall, Baytosh, Chelf and Maddy Koleno all assisting multiple times. All four return for the Wildcats.

Arizona is getting players from competitive clubs to come in. They have players who have now been in the system for three years. There’s every reason to expect them to be at least as good as they were last season. That could push them into the tournament for the first time since 2019.

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