clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Arizona football roundtable: On linebackers, Anu Solomon, and Pac-12 surprises

How about those linebackers? And that quarterback?

Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

The Arizona Wildcats got the ship righted on Saturday against Oregon State, thanks to some personnel changes on defense, and a quarterback returning to the starting lineup.

We talk about that and more in this week's roundtable:

1. Do you think the Triple M LB package (copyrighted) (Jake Matthews, DeAndre' Miller, Paul Magloire) is here to stay?

Gabe Encinas: I sure hope so. When it started coming down to Tre Tyler, Haden Gregory, R.J. Morgan -- guys like that -- I was seriously wondering why Paul Magloire and Tellas Jones couldn't play linebacker. Both are built like linebackers, and have the natural instincts. Nonetheless, I hope it stays. Derrick Turituri is still out, but I'd definitely like him to come in for Miller rather than Magloire. There just seems to be more upside with Magloire out there at linebacker.

David Potts: I don't think so. As much as I love seeing Paul Magloire out there getting those snaps, I worry that he isn't big enough to play linebacker consistently in the Pac-12. That said, I think we'll see the Triple M package situationally, just not as the primary unit.

Ryan Kelapire: Unless Scooby Wright returns this year, I don't really see any reason why it shouldn't. Arizona played its best defensive game of the year with the MMM package, so they definitely need to keep it around.

Jason Bartel: I think it's here to stay until Turituri is back. Arizona only plays teams with spread offenses and mobile quarterbacks from here on out essentially, so why not stick with it and have the most athletic guys out there all the time? Scooby's still at least two weeks away, and it doesn't sound like Turituri's close yet either, so I think we'll get the Triple M for at least one more week.

2. If we're being nitpicky, what's one thing that you didn't like about Arizona's performance against OSU?

GE: Probably the red zone efficiency. Skowron had to hit three field goals from within 37 yards, which are all from the 20 yard line and in. I liked the diamond formation that was going on inside the ten, with Jamardre Cobb, Zach Green and Orlando Bradford, but the issue is coming when Arizona is about 10+ yards out from the end zone. There was just a combination of super short passes in the flats, ineffective runs and Anu Solomon keepers that just didn't advance the ball.

DP: This is about as nitpicky as it gets, but Nick Wilson has to hold onto the football. I know the call was ultimately reversed (hence why this is so nitpicky), but this isn't the first time Wilson has had fumbling issues, and I'd like to see him get better in that area going forward. Of course, given that the only thing I could even think of to complain about was our star running back's inability to hold onto the football after he was already down, I'd say we had a pretty good game.

RK: This is actually a tough question, but I'd say Cayleb Jones. For a guy that was supposed to be far and away Arizona's best receiver, he hasn't really stood out this year. And against Oregon State he had just four catches for 29 yards.

JB: I'm going with Cayleb Jones too. Not just for the lack of production, but that lateral back to Anu? It's funny now because nothing horrible happened, but what if Oregon State gets that ball and takes it to the house? Bad decision making in a relatively disappointing season is not what I want to see from him.

3. Why is Anu Solomon underrated by most people?

GE: I wouldn't say he is underrated, but more under appreciated. And I think that's because people are looking at his inconsistencies rather than his progressions. He hasn't done anything flashy this season, nor has he needed to. The way Arizona is running their offense, it's not exactly designed for him to have those 400+ yard games he had many times last season. His passes are much shorter this year, and he's not asked to, or needed to, make a lot of vertical throws. However, when he throws a bad vertical pass, the moans and groans come out, which I think is where Anu Solomon's bad overshadows his good.

DP: Because the things Solomon does well aren't spectacular. I say this as someone who is as guilty as anyone of underrating Anu. He doesn't have great speed and he doesn't throw the best deep ball. The things he is good at are easy to overlook, as he is good at avoiding pressure and very good in the short to intermediate passing game. It's very easy to take those skills (particularly the ability to complete those passes) for granted. After the Stanford loss and the Oregon State win, though, I don't think people will be taking Anu for granted any more.

RK: I think it's because he hasn't played well in big games. In the Pac-12 title game he struggled then got injured, and then in the Fiesta Bowl he had that costly mistake at the end of the game. People always remember those types of things and it can take a while to change that perception. Plus, he's not really a flashy player. He makes the throws he has to, but rarely makes that "incredible" throw that makes people's jaws drop. Regardless, he's a good quarterback, and hopefully he'll start getting some more national attention.

JB: I think everything's been touched on already. Seeing the difference in this offense from Stanford to Oregon State should at least start changing some perception.

4. More surprising? UW over USC or WSU over Oregon?

GE: Now, I think that both USC and Oregon are having their own troubles within their program. With Steve Sarkisian no longer there, we'll see how that has an effect on his team, potentially avoiding the downward spiral. Meanwhile at Oregon, they've hit that downward spiral and it's not a good look considering the talent they've been able to draw in.

Probably Washington over USC. Washington has been able to hide their offensive troubles with their defense. They've only allowed 15 points a game this season, and they held USC to 12 points in Los Angeles. If Jake Browning can improve for Washington, then the Huskies might be able to pull off a few more big wins with that defense. It's especially remarkable considering the fact that the defense lost three first round picks to the 2015 NFL Draft.

Oregon's secondary is bad, and Washington State's offense is designed to throw the ball 60+ times, so the Ducks were very vulnerable heading into this.

DP: WSU over Oregon. In a way, I don't think either win was that surprising - UW beating Sark was poetic, and Oregon has been imploding - but I was surprised Washington State was able to finish off the win. That's something they couldn't do against Cal. It's something they couldn't even do against Portland State! The fact that Washington State was able to hold on and beat Oregon (rather than just stay competitive) was surprising to me.

RK: UW over USC. Oregon losing doesn't surprise me because of how bad their defense is, and how poor their QB play is. USC, on the other hand, is a talented squad up and down the roster and shouldn't lose at home to Washington -- a team that struggles to score points. Though I guess all of this Sarkisian stuff makes it a little more understandable.

JB: I'm going with WSU because of David's point. They held on, in a big game for that program, and won, even though Mike Leach was staring into space while deciding to go for two or not. Now THAT would have been Cougin it.