QB questions linger as Arizona aims to rebound against Grambling State
The belief belies the truth, leading to continued intrigue as Arizona football prepares for Grambling State on Saturday.
Rich Rodriguez continues to express belief in Arizona quarterback Anu Solomon, even after a difficult 2015 campaign and after the junior struggled in the 2016 opener — an 18-16 loss to BYU. Solomon went 20-for-30 for 213 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions against the Cougars.
The truth is the Wildcats list an “or” between Solomon’s name and that of backup quarterback Brandon Dawkins.
Even if Rodriguez doesn’t directly fill out the depth chart, listen to what he says beside his expectation Solomon can improve, and quickly.
“He competed, he made some nice plays but he missed some plays that he normally would make,” Rodriguez said this week of Solomon’s BYU game, before adding of Dawkins, “There was times I was close to putting him in in the game Saturday.”
There’s the truth: Solomon hasn’t done enough to secure the starting job as his. Entering Saturday listed as “questionable” with a knee injury only complicates matters.
This game against this opponent only means so much. What Dawkins can do with the opportunity that will likely arise against an FCS opponent remains uncertain.
If and when he plays, does he raise eyebrows? Does Solomon improve himself if he’s healthy enough to play? And even if Dawkins shines where Solomon doesn’t, or if Solomon sits out completely, does that necessarily usurp the latter from his starting job?
TESTING THE DEPTH CHART
Beyond the quarterback situation, a number of backups should have a chance to earn snaps that weren’t available against BYU.
Most noteworthy, that will happen at running back, where Nick Wilson should share more of the load with sophomore Orlando Bradford, a 5-foot-8, 206 pounder who got just one carry in the opener.
The third-string back may be the more curious to watch. J.J. Taylor, a 5-foot-6, 170 pound freshman, impressed in camp. Rodriguez said Arizona will try to get him involved behind Wilson and Bradford.
Defensively, the Wildcats will give redshirt freshman Anthony Mariscal more of a look behind spur safety Tellas Jones, who tweaked his ankle last week. And alongside WILL linebacker Paul Magloire, redshirt senior Michael Barton, a grad transfer who in 2014 led California with 80 tackles, could earn more playing time.
GAMBLING ON GRAMBLING?
The Wildcats would’ve liked to have more plays and more possessions in their loss to BYU.
A lack of turnovers forced, two turnovers of their own and poor field position kept the usual quick-snapping Arizona offense in check, but the feel will probably be different against a lesser opponent and one that touts a big-hit offense.
Grambling State faced NAIA opponent Virginia-Lynchburg in its opening game, setting a school record with a 72-12 victory. The Tigers have Division I-level athletes at the skill positions offensively, Rodriguez said.
“I look at what they did last year. They’ll blitz a lot, they’ll bring pressure. They’ll play with a chip on their shoulder,” the Arizona coach added.
Grambling State led the FCS with 10.1 tackles for loss per game in 2014 under coordinator Everett Todd.
A few Grambling things to know:
— QB DeVante Kincade, who spent two years at Ole Miss, led the team in rushing with 139 yards on four carries with two scores last week. He also went 10-for-18 with two touchdowns and three picks, splitting time with Trevon Cherry, who is more of a pocket passer.
— RB Martez Carter, who is 5-foot-8, is a menace on the ground. He averaged 7.9 yards per rush for the 2015 season and amassed 78 yards on just three carries in the Tigers’ Week 1 win.
— Grambling State was a talented passing team a year ago that didn’t show much in its win against Lynchberg. Part of it is the team getting two new quarterbacks’ feet wet. Another is missing 1,000-yard receiver Chad Williams in the first game due to a suspension. The Tigers also feature Texas transfer Montrel Meander at receiver.
7:45 p.m. MST