Forget Arizona football's bowl game. Running back and return man Jared Baker's torn ACL suffered in the regular season finale against ASU hurts well into next season. The injury, first reported by the Arizona Daily Star's Daniel Berk, casts a shadow over the running back position.
ACL injuries don't make for speedy recoveries. Receiver Austin Hill did in his knee this offseason and seemed like a hopeful to return for the bowl game, but that appeared unrealistic. It didn't help the loony optimism that Arizona kept him included on all injury reports yet never decided to call him a scratch for the year.
So with Baker's injury making him, at best, able to return midseason when he's a junior, there's at least a question of who becomes the key back to start the season -- and likely to finish it.
What? You thought Ka'Deem Carey would be coming back.
Assuming Carey leaves for the NFL, the Wildcats have a big hole to fill. Daniel Jenkins will have exhausted his eligibility and Baker, the third-stringer known for his speed, won't have a chance to fight for his starting spot.
Youngsters will need to step up.
Of Arizona's 27-man freshman class, only two are listed as running backs. Four-star back Nick Wilson out of Fresno, Calif., has the size to be an every-down back. Of the sophomores on the Arizona roster, Pierre Cormier, a four-star prospect in last year's class, could push for snaps after sitting out this season, as could the bigger back of last year's class, 220-pounder Zach Green.
There are of course some athletes whose positions will remain unclear heading into the summer. It's just one of many big decisions Rich Rodriguez must make heading into next season. His recruiting chops will begin to be put under the microscope.
Bondurant thinking NFL
Tra'Mayne Bondurant isn't a likely NFL draft pick, but he surprisingly submitted his NFL draft paperwork to see where he stands, according to Berk. Family issues have Bondurant wondering if he can make the jump after his junior season, but he said that there's a good chance of coming back to Arizona.
At this point, it's a worry that the Wildcats could lose their defensive rock. It's also interesting to wonder how well NFL teams can judge Bondurant, who probably projects as a safety in the pros but plays the up, spur hybrid position.