This is the first time Rich Rodriguez will be returning a quarterback in his fourth year at Arizona. It started with Matt Scott in year one, with a transition to B.J. Denker, and now moving forward with Anu Solomon for the next couple of years.
But out of those three, who is the best quarterback? The easiest way to think about this would be to pick which quarterback you would want to have for one year, barring any injuries. Let's take a look at each of the starting quarterbacks in the Rich Rodriguez era.
Scott was a pretty ballsy quarterback to say the least. He was fearless in the pocket, could take a hit, and wasn't afraid to sling it deep, giving his receiver and only the receiver a chance at the ball on the vertical routes. Bet Austin Hill misses those days. He wasn't the most mobile QB, but he had the brains to work his way through the pocket and move if he needed to extend the play.
Looking back, Arizona played a brutal schedule that season. No. 18 Oklahoma State, at No. 3 Oregon, No. 18 Oregon State, at No. 18 Stanford, No. 10 USC, at No. 25 UCLA, and then capped things off with the Territorial Cup Game. He wasn't a flashy quarterback that put up big numbers, but was fairly consistent all season long. He led the upset over No. 10 USC and finally got things together in the New Mexico Bowl vs. Nevada, but he never had that signature game where he took over.
Matt Scott threw for a total of 3,620 yards, with 27 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. He also went on to add 506 yards on the ground with 6 touchdowns. He also completed 60% of his passes. His leading receivers were Austin Hill and Dan Buckner, with a huge drop off to David Richards and Garic Wharton.
I doubt anyone would actually pick B.J. Denker as the starting quarterback for the year, but let's try and make a case for it anyways.
The amount of head-scratching throws he made was far too many for a collegiate quarterback. But, for being an unranked quarterback and being told he'd never play Division I football, he made it. He beat out the competition and won the job.
He played a near flawless game against Oregon, going 19-22 for 178 yards and two touchdowns, and picked up 104 yards on the ground on 14 carries. But his worst performance just so happened to come at the end of the season, against Arizona State, in the most important game of the season. He went 15 for 30 for 175 yards, throwing a season-high three interceptions.
His speed definitely made up for some of the accuracy he didn't have, making Pac-12 defenses respect his mobility. But there were just too many times where he didn't give his receivers a chance to make a play on the ball.
Denker is the most mobile quarterback of the three, and he had another layer of versatility in the option game. He took advantage of his speed, accounting for 949 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns. He competed 61% of his passes for 2,516 yards, with 16 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. He did have some talent around him with the freshman duo of Nate Phillips and Samajie Grant. Trey Griffey also started to emerge, and Terrence Miller provided the size and senior leadership for the group.
He led Arizona to a 10-win season and kept the Pac-12 in check as a redshirt freshman. However, he was hurt throughout the second half of the season, which definitely hindered his performance.
Like Scott, Solomon was fairly consistent, but he mixed in some elements of B.J. Denker that were not so welcome. He entered the scene against UNLV, where he threw for over 400 yards and four touchdowns. It ended up not being such a big deal, as UNLV only went on to win two games in 2014. Of course, there's the Cal game, where he threw the infamous "Hill Mary" and totally took over the second half of that game. He also had a solid performance against Oregon, notching Arizona's second win vs. the Ducks in 10 months.
And then, he left a sour taste in our mouths with the Pac-12 Championship Game and Fiesta Bowl. The defense did all it could in the first half during the Pac-12 Championship Game before the floodgates opened. As for the Fiesta Bowl, there were just some bone-headed moves by Solomon that ultimately put the game out of reach for the Wildcats.
Solomon completed 58% of his passes for 3,793 yards, throwing 28 touchdowns with just 9 interceptions. His ground game wasn't nearly as good as the two previous quarterbacks, rushing for 291 yards and just two touchdowns. But, he undoubtedly had the best group of receivers, with new faces including Cayleb Jones and DaVonte' Neal, while returning Samajie Grant, Trey Griffey, Nate Phillips and David Richards, as well.
Personally, I'll take Matt Scott. He played in a brutal schedule with not nearly as much talent surrounding him. Yes, he did have Ka'Deem Carey behind him, but Matt Scott just had better accuracy, decision making, and command of the offense that made Arizona successful in year one of the Rich Rodriguez era. Let us know what you think in the comments below.