Ka'Deem Carey was one of the most decorated players in Arizona Wildcats football history. Over the 2012 and 2013 seasons, he played in 25 games and gained over 100 yards in 22 of them, allowing him to climb to the top of the career yardage mark at Arizona. His production was so superior that he was a two-time consensus All-American.
In my opinion, one of the underrated elements of his game was his durability. He did not miss a game due to injury in either of those seasons!
In the two seasons removed from Ka'Deem’s reign, we have seen three true running backs with at least 100 carries. The closest another true RB came to 100 carries in 2012 or 2013 was 67.
Nick Wilson has been an undeniable asset for the post-Ka'Deem seasons. As a true freshman, he rushed for 1,375 yards and 16 touchdowns with a whopping 5.8 yards an attempt. Unfortunately, that may seem like a distant memory after an injury-plagued 2015 season.
In 2015, he finished as the team’s second leading rusher. However, the point is they were fortunate to have a senior backup in Jared Baker (131 carries/798 yards/9 TDs). Wilson also missed some time in 2014 and position depth proved true with Terris Jones-Grigsby (121 carries/567 yards/3 TDs).
History tells us that Nick will miss time, but how much? We don’t know, so it’s best to be ready. Jones-Grigsby and Baker were ideal backups given their age and experience with the system.
This season’s roster won’t have a senior running back, which shouldn’t be an issue as the talent and system experience is still there. The biggest name to keep your eye on is sophomore Orlando Bradford. If you’re not familiar with the name it’s probably because he made sporadic appearances last season.
Arguably, his best performance came in the New Mexico Bowl where he rushed for 61 yards on 11 carries. This may seem pedestrian, but it’s the timing of these carries that bring context to the line. In the final scoring drive for the Wildcats, Orlando had eight rushes for 28 yards and picked up three first downs. His contribution not only set up a field goal that extended the lead to 45-37, but also built momentum for him to carry into this season.
Rich Rodriguez has done a great job in establishing a Louisiana pipeline for UA. Bradford is a product of that pipeline. The first time I watched his highlights he reminded me of Ray Rice. Their sizes are obviously comparable, but they share similar toughness and vision. Orlando certainly won’t shy away from contact.
Beyond Nick and Orlando, watch for two more names:
Redshirt junior Zach Green - He is another powerful runner who will get his fair share of carries, especially with Jonathan Haden’s transfer.
True freshman J.J. Taylor – If he doesn’t redshirt, expect him to see the field. He is coming off a very productive high school career. Apparently his size scared away some bigger name programs but OKG right?