PFF: Solomon, Richard among best Pac-12 returning players
Pac-12 teams will resume play less than seven weeks from now, and the conference’s two teams in Arizona will boast some solid returning talent.
Pro Football Focus’ college section featured a list of every Pac-12 team’s best returning player. For the Arizona Wildcats, junior Anu Solomon got the nod.
Arizona: Anu Solomon, QB
Solomon’s 25 career starts (second only to Sefo Liufau’s 29) make him one of the more veteran signal callers in the Pac-12. He is a consistent player who didn’t grade negatively as a passer in a single game last season. Solomon’s adjusted completion percentage of 72.0 ranks No. 9 among returning Power-5 quarterbacks.
Solomon has been a standout since he won four state titles as a starter at Bishop Gorman High School, a national football powerhouse in Las Vegas (currently ranked No. 3 nationally by MaxPreps). He redshirted his true freshman year at Arizona in 2013, and in 2014 became the school’s first freshman quarterback to start a season opener.
Last year, he completed 62.3 percent of his passes and threw 20 touchdowns with five interceptions. He also rushed for 198 yards.
The 21-year-old loses three of last year’s top five receivers, with only Nate Phillips and Samajie Grant coming back for the Wildcats. The top producer in the running game last year, Jared Baker, will not return either, though a healthy Nick Wilson shouldn’t come up short in filling that void.
Solomon missed his team’s Nov. 21 Territorial Cup game against ASU, but Sun Devil running back Demario Richard didn’t; he rushed for 105 yards and scored a touchdown in that game.
Richard was PFF’s top returning player for Arizona State.
Arizona State: Demario Richard, RB
Richard is one half of arguably the best backfield duo in the conference and his teammate Kalen Ballage was up for consideration as well but Richard slightly edges out Ballage in most categories. Richard is a difficult running back to bring down and his 46 forced missed tackles on rushing plays ranks No. 4 among returning Pac-12 running backs.
In his sophomore year last season, Richard played in 12 games and rushed for 1,104 yards and seven touchdowns. The former four-star high school recruit out of Palmdale, California scored two rushing touchdowns against Cal Poly last September before returning a week later to score two receiving touchdowns against New Mexico.
He had 100+ yards rushing in seven different games last season.
Richard and fellow running back Kalen Ballage may have to produce the lion’s share of the team’s yardage this season. With quarterback Mike Bercovici and wide receivers D.J. Foster and Devin Lucien out of the picture, the onus is on a fresh quarterback and strong running back core to put ASU into contention. It doesn’t help that ASU will also lose three starters from the offensive line.