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Underrated Wildcats: Anu Solomon could have been Arizona’s best QB ever

What could have been...

NCAA FOOTBALL: NOV 08 Colorado at Arizona Photo by Chris Coduto/Icon Sportswire/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

I’m prepared to die on this hill. Anu Solomon is one of the most underrated Wildcats to ever play for the football program.

For most fans, his legacy is a quarterback who simply couldn’t stay healthy. Whether or not you agree with that, it is a fair assessment. He sustained far too many concussions and struggled with a knee injury during his junior season. He ultimately made the wise decision to medically retire during his senior season at Baylor as a result.

That’s how it all ended and it is a sad ending but we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that he was one of the most successful Wildcat quarterbacks ever.

Let’s start from the beginning.

Solomon began the 2014 season atop of the quarterback depth chart as a redshirt freshman. He was a top dual-threat quarterback coming out of Bishop Gorman in Las Vegas.

At the time, Rich Rodriguez was entering his third season in Tucson and was working with a roster of Mike Stoops’ upperclassmen as well as his young recruits. The mix produced the best results for Arizona football of this century.

There were several young Rodriguez recruits that blossomed in 2014 (Nick Wilson, Samajie Grant and Nate Phillips to name a few). However, Anu Solomon was arguably the most important piece and was responsible for bringing everything together for the offense.

Football is the ultimate team sport and the Wildcats achieved a 10-2 regular-season record which was also good for a Pac-12 South Championship.

Shifting the focus to the individual performance of Solomon that season is a fun exercise. He played in all 14 games and tallied 3,793 passing yards with 28 touchdowns while completing 58 percent of his passes.

It was one of the most memorable freshman outings but the team success did not quite carry over to 2015. They finished the 2015 season 7-6 with a 6-6 regular season record.

Solomon missed two games but finished with strong statistical measures. If anyone remembers him that season when he was completely healthy, you could tell he was much more comfortable with the speed of the game and his decision making had improved.

His final numbers of that season were 2,667 passing yards with 20 touchdowns while completing 62 percent of his passes. Not quite as impressive as 2014 but nonetheless impressive.

The 2016 season for Arizona is one of the most forgettable seasons in recent memory, perhaps even more forgettable than 2019. Injuries mounted beyond belief and the roster’s lack of depth was very much exposed.

One of those injuries of course was Anu Solomon. He entered the season atop the quarterback’s depth chart once again. However, he only started and completed one full game which was the season opener against BYU.

He would appear in four more games that season but was never the same after sustaining a knee injury in practice following Arizona’s week-one loss.

The last time Solomon appeared in a game for the Wildcats was November 19, 2016, against Oregon State. He finished with 82 passing yards and six completions on 11 attempts.

After the conclusion of the 2016 season, he graduated and transferred to Baylor for a fresh start. He was eligible to play immediately due to the Graduate-Transfer policy.

His tenure with Baylor lasted only two games and ultimately withdrew from school after suffering from concussion-like symptoms for several weeks.

The biggest question to Anu Solomon’s career will be “What if he just stayed healthy?” It is a tall ask for anyone to stay completely healthy in a game that’s as physical as football.

But what if rather than missing 17 regular season games over the 2016 and 2017 seasons, he only missed three each season? This would mean he still missed a quarter of the regular season but would been healthy enough to offer much more than what actually happened.

As of the conclusion of the 2019 season, Anu Solomon’s position in Arizona’s record books are as follows:

  • Passing Yards: 4th (6,910)
  • Completions: 4th (555)
  • Attempts: 4th (932)
  • Passing Touchdowns: 4th (49)
  • TD:INT Ratio: 1st (3.1:1 minimum 200 pass attempts)

It’s easy to forget his passing productivity during his time with the program as the most recent memories of Solomon come from the dreadful 2016 season.

But what if he was able to avoid the fluke accident when he injured his knee in practice? What if he played and started in at least nine games in 2016 instead of starting only one and playing in four others?

Theoretically playing nine games of a 12-game regular season is a reasonable expectation, right?

That might have prevented his transfer to Baylor in 2017 which might have prevented the phenomenon of Khalil Tate’s emergence as one of the most exciting players in college football.

Let’s assume Solomon was healthy enough to play at least nine games in 2016. Then, as a result he never transferred to Baylor for the 2017 season and played at least nine games that season as well.

If we extrapolate his career statistics based on per game averages to reflect that scenario, he would have played in 43 games instead of the actual 32. Here is where he would have finished in the Arizona record books:

  • Passing Yards: 1st (10,578)
  • Completions: 2nd (844)
  • Attempts: 1st (1,426)
  • Passing Touchdowns: 1st (78)
  • TD:INT Ratio: 1st (3.2:1, minimum 200 pass attempts)

If this scenario came to fruition, Solomon would be regarded as the most statistically accomplished quarterback to ever wear the Wildcats’ uniform.

That obviously wasn’t the case and his Arizona career ended in an unfortunate fashion. We’ll never know what could have been had his health held up.

We do know that despite the cruel ending to his career, Anu Solomon ranks as one of the top statistically accomplished quarterbacks in Arizona program history.