Welcome to a new series in which we try to determine if the Arizona Wildcats’ position groups are in strong, stable, unstable, serious, or critical condition heading into fall camp. Next up are the running backs.
Starter: J.J. Taylor
Backups: Nathan Tilford, Gary Brightwell, Anthony Mariscal, Branden Leon, Darrius Smith
J.J. Taylor plays like he’s in a video game and he is capable of being an every-down back, despite being 5-foot-6, 180 pounds. He has speed, strength, elusiveness, hands — literally everything but size.
Nathan Tilford burned his redshirt on about a dozen carries and special teams, which is frustrating. We’re waiting to see him unleash his extremely wide skill set, the staff said that he just needs to work on the details. He can be an x-factor for the offense, making an already potent rushing attack much stronger.
Behind these two, the depth really looks unclear, as we don’t exactly know how they sit with the new staff.
Gary Brightwell saw some very limited action on offense last season, mostly in the slot, but contributed heavily on special teams. He’s an all-around type of back that excels in catching passes out of the backfield.
Anthony Mariscal made a late role change from safety to running back this off-season and he performed extremely well by all accounts. He was an excellent back at Liberty High School (Bakersfield, CA), and shouldn’t be written off just because he’s changed positions. It’s a smart move for both sides, and he’s got a shot to get some touches.
Probably one of the hardest working players on the team, Branden Leon is still an extremely viable option to take some carries. A strong downhill runner that will take advantage of any carry that he earns.
Arizona brings in one running back, Darrius Smith, who is a nice little explosive back. It’s hard to tell if he will contribute as a true freshman, but he’s one that can really benefit from the four-game allowance for the new redshirt rule, so the coaches can see what he can do live.
This is already a really strong group with Taylor leading the way, but add the strengths of Tilford’s game and this group can have two workhorses to play off Tate.
We’re going to see a lot more pass catching from the running backs in Noel Mazzone’s offense, and that’s where Gary Brightwell can come in as a focal point, too.
You also have to value two extremely hard runners like Mariscal and Leon as well. And Smith has some intrigue with his shifty running abilities.
What condition are Arizona’s running backs in?
This poll is closed