Editor's note: This is Drake Horner's first piece for the site. Please welcome him to the team!
It’s Mid-July in Tucson, Arizona, and with that comes another year of Rich Rodriguez claiming that "nobody’s job is safe". It is like clockwork every summer.
Anu Solomon is the clear favorite to win the Arizona Wildcats starting quarterback job, but he is going to have to work for it like any other year. Brandon Dawkins is the second option this year, and we all got to see what he can do against the Arizona State Sun Devils in 2015. Some people think that this competition is different and Dawkins will make a push to start, but I see it unfolding just like the past two quarterback competitions: With Solomon starting Week One.
I see where people are coming from with Dawkins. He has all the tools to be a really successful quarterback. He’s tall, mobile, and can throw the deep ball well. Where he struggles though is the mental part of the game, which is an area Solomon excels.
There has been word that Dawkins is putting it all together and is really starting to understand the offense, which is why a lot of people tend to think he has a shot at the job. He will have to beat out Solomon, who knows the offense like the back of his hand, and this isn’t his first time battling for the starting position.
He’s had to battle out the sexy picks every year. First it was the cannon-armed Jesse Scroggins in 2014, then the lightning-quick Jerrard Randall in 2015, and now the almost Territorial Cup hero in Dawkins. It’s the same story every year, and I find it hard to believe that a quarterback who led Arizona to one of the most successful seasons in 20 years will be beaten out. While Solomon did struggle at times in 2015, I wouldn’t bet against him.
Solomon missed two games last year due to injury and threw 20 touchdowns to only five interceptions, but seemed scared to run at times. His ability to not turn the ball over much is one of his best qualities, and one Rodriguez really values. It’s all about reads in this offense and after three years in the system, Solomon makes the right read more often than not.
The 2015 season was an interesting one to say the least. Anu got absolutely no help from the defense and he also had to worry about the ball being snapped over his head every play.
After three straight losses, he was playing his best ball of 2015 against Utah, throwing for 277 yards and running for another 86 as the offense was playing great against the top ten team at home. Solomon then suffered a concussion late in the game and Randall came in and won it in double overtime.
The next week during the ASU game, Randall struggled mightily against Todd Graham’s defense. After putting Arizona in a three touchdown hole, Rodriguez got desperate and put Dawkins in, who almost orchestrated an historic comeback. It was a gutsy performance as he took hit after hit while dealing with an illness the whole game, even throwing up in the locker room at halftime.
People need to take the ASU game for what it is though. A good game against a defense ranked 121st in the nation in 2015 (just two spots above Arizona). There was a reason Dawkins was behind Randall.
Could Dawkins put everything together and win the job? Sure, but I wouldn’t bet against Solomon. Here's a kid that won four state championships in high school, led Arizona to its first South Division championship, has an astonishing 48-14 TD:INT ratio in his collegiate career, and almost always makes the right read.
I think Rich knows who is going to start week one or at least has a strong inclination, but get ready for another Rich Rodriguez Quarterback Competition...one we probably won’t know the answer to until someone jogs out on the first drive.
But don’t be surprised when the battle-tested Solomon takes that first snap.