It’s Tuesday, and I’ve had an absurdly busy week, so I had to ask for questions at a really awful time.
So we don’t have a lot this week, but what we do have seems to be a common theme surrounding the Arizona Wildcats....will injuries lead to new starters?
As always, be sure to follow us on Twitter @azdesertswarm and get those burning questions in each week!
@azdesertswarm if B dawks plays well in a win over Washington what are his chances of keeping the job?— Stuart Kratz (@StuartKratz) September 20, 2016
So first off, I do believe Brandon Dawkins is going to start against Washington. As of Tuesday morning, Anu Solomon still hadn’t practiced fully in the two weeks since suffering the knee injury, and even if he were able to get in on Wednesday and Thursday, two days doesn’t seem like enough for Rich Rodriguez to go back to him right away.
If Dawkins plays well against a defense like Washington’s, and leads Arizona to a win or even a close loss, you’d have to like his chances to at least see significant snaps if he’s not starting. If he plays well, and Anu gets healthy for UCLA, I’d say it’d be something like a 40% chance that Dawkins starts. I’m not fully convinced Anu will be healthy in the immediate future though.
@azdesertswarm Does JJ Taylor have a legitimate chance to start over a healthy Nick Wilson?— Tyler McCoy (@NotTylerMcCoy) September 20, 2016
I think Dawkins has a better chance of starting over a healthy Anu than J.J. Taylor has of starting over a healthy Nick Wilson. That’s just the RichRod mentality. Remember in 2013 when Daniel Jenkins started the year off on a tear while Ka’Deem Carey was suspended? Rodriguez said they would split carries. That was a good joke.
Wilson was in a walking boot on Tuesday, so I’d be skeptical about his status for Saturday. That would allow Taylor to get a start there. But I think if Wilson is ever 100%, Taylor’s not starting over him. It is nice to know that there are several good options at running back though, including Tyrell Johnson now.
I think the first half against Hawai’i was basically the formula needed to be in position to score the upset this weekend. First and foremost, Arizona will have to be disciplined. They can’t be giving away free yards and first downs because of penalties.
Next up, the offense needs to establish itself both in the run game and in the short-to-intermediate passing game. Dawkins did a really nice job of finding the easy completions, which opened up some space on the ground, and then the rest was history.
Thirdly, the secondary will need to play better. If Tellas Jones is able to go this week (he dressed but didn’t play last week), that will be a huge boost. Dane Cruikshank’s health is a huge concern since there’s a huge drop off from him to the third and fourth corners.
And lastly for the purposes of this article, third down defense needs to take a big step up. Right now, the Wildcats are 123rd out of 128 teams in the FBS in defensive third down percentage. The 53.3% conversion rate they’re allowing is more than double that of conference-leader Colorado (26.1%). Only Colorado State, Cincinnati, Purdue, Kentucky and Arkansas State are worse than Arizona at this so far. Get the offense back on the field in a more timely manner, and the Wildcats have a much better chance of pulling the upset.