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Monday Mailbag: Answering your Arizona football questions

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On recruiting, the quarterback situation, and more

NCAA Football: Arizona Bowl-South Alabama vs Air Force Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

We’re in the dog days of summer, which means it’s a slow time of year for college sports coverage.

So we asked our readers to ask us questions about the Arizona Wildcats, and we answered them as best we could.

Here we go.

Gabe Encinas: So for context, Bijan Robinson is five-star running back from Salpointe, ranked 31st in the nation. His offers include Alabama, LSU, Michigan, Oklahoma and USC, among others.

If there was ever a time to put an emphasis on keeping a local kid in town, now is that time. Robinson was offered by the old staff, but Clarence McKinney has undoubtedly made him a priority.

When it comes to local products, staying in Tucson always seems to be way more an emphasis than Phoenix. There’s just something about kids in town growing up with Arizona and admiring the program through the years.

Kevin Sumlin has one season and one full recruiting cycle to show Bijan he’s here to win a Rose Bowl.

You have to like the hometown factor, but every school is coming in with a pitch. It’s too hard to tell now, but Sumlin’s first year will have a big say in Robinson’s desire. However, USC is going to be tough to beat.

Brandon Combs: Interesting question. At this point it is hard to say. As Gabe mentioned above, there are suddenly major programs pursuing Robinson.

Arizona was one of his first offers when the old staff was in town and it is a no-brainer to say the new staff is on him as well. Sumlin has mentioned how important in-state recruiting is and, even more-so, keeping Tucson-area talent home.

This will be a good test for Sumlin and company as they look to keep the best Tucson player home since Ka’Deem Carey.

I also want to to foot-stomp the hometown factor and how it will be an important factor in this recruitment. USC is the favorite, as the Trojans were Robinson’s dream school growing up and Reggie Bush was his role model.

Gabe Encinas: So we know that Marcel Yates will have a lot more control of the defense, that is for sure. With that, I think you just see a stronger mix of four down linemen and a stand up outside linebacker when it comes to formation/scheme.

Overall, I think you have to be a little more optimistic with the line just knowing the depth at all spots.

As for the defense against Washington State for example, I don’t think it can get much worse than that. In regards to the 2015 and 2016 games, I had multiple former players say they weren’t even running routes, they just pick a zone to attack until someone got open and it worked because Arizona would only rush three. Yikes.

Brandon Combs: I know it was said last year, and it was true to an extent, but the defense should be more aggressive. Marcel Yates did a really decent job last season with the young defense he had. I wholeheartedly expect the D to be a step up or two from where it was last season.

There were a lot of young, first year starters/players who gained in-game experience. The value in that cannot be overstated. Not to mention the defensive line already looks different than it did last year and that should help the rest of the defense in a big way.

As for the Wazzu game, the defense held up its end of the bargain. Yes, the Cougs were able to throw all over the field, but if you rewatch the game, the secondary made a ton of plays on the ball. Even the linebackers got in on the action as Colin Schooler had a pick six. That game was the epitome of a bend-don’t-break defense that worked.

Gabe Encinas: I love and hate this question because the optimism surrounding this season makes it too good to be true.

I’m pretty sure the Pac-12 will not have a College Football Playoff representative. The conference just isn’t that great, which sets the table for Arizona, who can single handedly win games with Khalil Tate and a defense that can only go up.

Both divisions are wide open. The South because USC certainly has their own questions/roster turnover. But Utah is also a dangerous team.

The North is a race between Oregon, Stanford and Washington, and I’m not convinced any have a clear edge. Although Oregon has the most to prove of the three.

The Holiday Bowl is the Pac-12 tie in for the third place team.

It’s harder to project exactly how the North and South align, so I’ll stick with my 9-3 assessment (losses to USC, Utah, Oregon) for the season, which doesn’t really answer the question, but still puts Arizona in play for the Holiday Bowl.

Brandon Combs: I think it is possible yes, and I’m not just saying that to be sarcastic. Arizona is a legitimate dark horse to make a run in the Pac-12, especially the in South Division.

The ‘Cats have a favorable schedule, an explosive offense, a rising defense, and a ton of returning experience. Colorado is rebuilding, USC has major questions, ASU isn’t expected to be good, and UCLA has whatever it is they call a football team in Westwood. Utah is always a tough team, which I expect nothing less from a Kyle Whittingham squad.

So yes, it is highly possible that UA could go to the Holiday Bowl or higher.

@ZonaFan2014: Who’s the frontrunner (at backup quarterback) going into camp?

Brandon Combs: As of now I’m going to say K’Hari Lane. He has clearly grown since last season and looks like a different person physically. He had an OK showing during the spring game with some nice passes. However, it’s clear he his game needs more fine-tuning.

Now after fall camp, I’d say it will be Kevin Doyle as the No. 2. He is too talented to not be, and is ways ahead of Lane. Heck, I think that it may be a split between Jamarye Joiner and Doyle. Both are better options than what is currently on the roster behind Tate.

Gabe Encinas: Yeah, nothing more to elaborate on here. Lane has definitely lost some weight, and isn’t as bad as most people would think he is. It’s just the fact that he’s still so inexperienced since he hardly got reps last year.

Doyle should take over as the No. 2. I might even think Joiner gets a lead on Lane.