Editor's note: Welcome David Stevenson to our team. This is his debut piece for this site. He previously wrote for the Daily Wildcat from 1999-2003.
A new season for the Arizona Wildcats is about to begin and the main storyline of the year is the last dance for head coach Rich Rodriguez and redshirt junior quarterback Anu Solomon. Both look to move beyond Arizona. Both have the tools to transition to the next level but both were unable to do so last year. And both find themselves stuck together at UA, badly needing a successful 2016 campaign.
It is well documented of Rodriguez’s flirtation with South Carolina. We don’t know the exact reason why he did not become the USC coach, but we do know there was a period of uncertainty of which Rodriguez was off the radar, deep into negotiations. South Carolina hired their long-rumored new coach 48 hours after Rodriguez announced he was staying at UA.
2015 was a disaster as Arizona failed to capitalize on the Fiesta Bowl appearance. Rodriguez is virtually starting over by ushering in a completely new defensive coaching staff and scheme. Last year exposed the lack of depth on both sides of the ball that is a direct result of recruiting. This year, the new hires are off to a great start in building the 2017 class to address the glaring need.
It will be an offensive challenge in 2016 with a small receiving corps and a collection of inexperienced running backs. Rodriguez has always had a watchful eye over scoring points and he always has his quarterback as the centerpiece. This year, Arizona has its most seasoned veteran under center looking to rebound from a maddening season that is probably his own final opportunity to keep his job. He desperately needs to win more games at UA to raise his profile too.
As a redshirt freshman, Solomon won the starting job and had a tremendous season despite the last two games (Really, the downfall of Solomon can be traced to the final play of the Fiesta Bowl when he took a game-ending sack rather than running out of bounds or throwing the ball through the end zone). From there, Solomon was extremely inconsistent and was never was the same after he suffered a concussion. True, he was the last starting quarterback in all of college football to throw an interception, but he never regained his mojo after getting knocked out of the UCLA game.
It can be argued his numbers were better in 2015 than 2014. His quarterback ratings and completion percentages were acceptable but he never looked comfortable and his decision making seemed questionable. Then he got hurt again, missed the entire Arizona State game, and looked very average in the New Mexico Bowl.
The 2015 NFL draft ended without any Solomon fanfare. There was never any trepidation of him leaving early. Now with his health concerns, the tantalizing performance of Brandon Dawkins against ASU, and the highly-touted Khalil Tate, it seems Solomon must win his job again even though he is penciled in as the starter.
Even if Solomon is the starter against BYU, it wouldn’t be surprising to see if Rodriguez keeps him on a short leash; because this year both Solomon and Rodriguez must win games if they want to extend their careers beyond Arizona.