The Arizona Wildcats do not have a new head coach yet, but that has not stopped Jon Wilner of the Mercury News from having high expectations for them in 2018.
Wilner, a Pac-12 columnist, pegged Arizona as his No. 22 team in his early preseason Top 25:
We’ll reserve final judgment until the head coach is in place. But for the moment, the prospects look bright for Arizona with Khalil Tate (assuming he returns), tailback J.J. Taylor and a defense stocked with young talent.
Arizona went 7-6 in 2017, but the new coach will have plenty of returning talent to work with.
Arizona returns 16 starters, with the most important one being star quarterback Khalil Tate whose presence alone should allow the Wildcats to have one of the top offenses in the Pac-12, if not the country, again next season.
Arizona ranked No. 8 in scoring offense in 2017, and that was with Tate not starting the first five games of the year.
The one thing the Wildcats will have to sort out on that side of the ball is their offensive line which graduates three starters. Losing running back Nick Wilson could hurt, too, but Arizona certainly has a capable replacement in J.J. Taylor.
Still, the biggest question mark for Arizona is on defense. The Wildcats were 107th in scoring defense in 2017, so plenty of improvement will need to be made there.
But half the starters were freshmen so naturally those players should be better in 2018, though it will be interesting to see how they respond to (potentially) having a new defensive staff.
Of course, we cannot forget special teams which were a disaster in 2017, mainly because of UA’s dismal punting situation.
But it is hard to see how it can be worse in 2018, and maybe the new coach can even make Arizona decent or good in that aspect of the game.