Arizona Wildcats QB situation still open while other Pac-12 teams move forward



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The Arizona football team begins its 2013 season against Northern Arizona at Arizona Stadium on Aug. 30, which is only three days away. From now until then, this Web site will count down the days with facts about the Wildcats, their players, coaching staff and opponents. This is not a ranking, only a list of 100 facts and observances related to the 2013 Arizona football team and coach Rich Rodriguez.


ASU, UCLA, Utah, Stanford, Oregon and Washington have their quarterback situation figured out and feel comfortable with their starter.

Colorado has listed Texas transfer Connor Wood as a probable starter since April, but new coach Mike MacIntyre has left the competition open for possibility of change. He recruited a JC quarterback in February to improve the competition. Wood did not start for the Buffaloes last season, but he will get that assignment Sunday when the Buffaloes open against Colorado State.

Coaches at Cal, Oregon State and Washington State have named their starting quarterbacks from spring practice until as recently as yesterday, when Beavers coach Mike Riley announced junior Sean Mannion will be his guy when OSU hosts Eastern Washington on Saturday.

USC coach Lane Kiffin is going with a two-quarterback system Thursday against Hawaii (and probably beyond that).

Washington State coach Mike Leach is going with junior Connor Halliday over redshirt freshman Austin Apodaca when the Cougars travel to Auburn on Saturday. Halliday is a holdover from the previous staff while Apodaca is one of Leach’s recruits, but Leach likes more of what he sees out of Halliday for now.

Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez is not tipping his hand about who will start against NAU on Friday night. He went so far as to tell the media Monday night that four quarterbacks may see action, but that may have been said tongue in cheek.

Quarterback controversies happen every year in the Pac-12. It so happens that nearly half of the teams have endured one since the start of spring practice.

Cal coach Sonny Dykes told the media Aug. 17 that his starter is true freshman Jared Goff. Zach Kline, a redshirt freshman, and junior Austin Hinder know, however, they can be called if Goff falters.

Riley determined that Mannion will start over senior Cody Vaz, but he left the door open for Vaz to still play when the Beavers host Eastern Washington on Saturday.

B.J. Denker is the probable starter Friday against NAU but Rich Rodriguez is not saying

B.J. Denker is the probable starter Friday against NAU but Rich Rodriguez is not saying

Kiffin will likely go with a two-quarterback system for most, if not all, of the season. Max Wittek and Cody Kessler, both sophomores, will not alternate series and probably will not alternate quarters against Hawaii, but they will both play equally. Kiffin has been vague with the media — when is he not? — about who will start and who will play when.

The opinion among most of the media who cover Arizona is that senior B.J. Denker — the No. 2 quarterback last year — will get the starting assignment over junior Jesse Scroggins and redshirt freshman Javelle Allen. Rodriguez will likely go with Denker and see how he performs against NAU in the first half before having to make another decision.

For stability sake, Rodriguez is hoping Denker can be efficient against the Lumberjacks from the beginning. Scroggins, Allen and sophomore transfer Nick Isham, however, can benefit from live action playing in Rodriguez’s system for the first time.

Arizona’s early non-conference schedule — NAU, UNLV and Texas-San Antonio — benefits Rodriguez in that he can play a variety of quarterbacks if he wants to go that route. Most coaches want a clear-cut starter or a defined two-quarterback system from the beginning.

Kiffin, for example, went with the two-headed quarterback rather than incorporate five-star recruit Max Browne in the mix.

The shows Kiffin has confidence in Wittek and Kessler to perform. Rodriguez’s critical comments during fall camp suggest he lacks the confidence necessary to go full steam ahead with one or two quarterbacks.

Rodriguez has a method to his criticism of UA quarterbacks: See how they respond in practice.

“I think they have all improved to some point,” Rodriguez was quoted as saying by Anthony Gimino of TucsonCitizen.com. “I told them from the start, ‘We’re going to put a lot of pressure on you and make you feel uncomfortable in practice’ just to see how they would respond. And they all responded pretty well.

“They didn’t go in the tank when they had a bad play or (quarterbacks) coach (Rod) Smith and I were on them a little bit.”

Game-time pressure starts Friday night. Rodriguez — and Denker — are hoping for no tanks, only touchdowns.

The best Arizona player to wear No. 3, according to TucsonCitizen.com’s Anthony Gimino, is free safety Tony Bouie (1991-94). He was an All-American for Desert Swarm defenses; played four seasons with Tampa Bay in the NFL.


Last year, this site and TucsonCitizen.com ran a Top 50 Games in the history of Arizona football series. I will relive that list here with less than 50 days to kickoff and add one game to it: Arizona’s improbable 49-48 win over Nevada in the New Mexico Bowl last December, which landed as No. 38 on the list. Note, after clicking on the link, you will notice last year’s ranking. The list on this page is the current ranking.

No. 3: Arizona’s Desert Swarm and offense too much for Miami in historic Fiesta Bowl shutout

No. 4: ASU smells roses but through broken nose as Cecil, DeBow lead Cats

No. 5: Zendejas returns after hastily leaving UA at halftime, makes 48-yard FG to beat Notre Dame

No. 6: 1982 upset win keeps Sun Devils from Rose Bowl, starts “The Streak”

No. 7: “Leap by the Lake” most amazing individual play in UA history gives Cats win over Huskies

No. 8: UA loses heartbreaker to ASU wondering: “The Catch” really a catch?

No. 9: Arizona (12-1) achieves best record, highest ranking to end season with 1998 win over Nebraska

No. 10: UA wins 1926 game after McKale delivers Salmon’s “Bear Down” line

No. 11: The Desert Swarm is born in 1992 near-upset of top-ranked Miami at the Orange Bowl

No. 12: Zendejas’ 57-yard FG ties UA record, keeps ASU out of Rose Bowl again

No. 13: Arizona blows 20-point lead and shot at the Rose Bowl with 1993 collapse at California

No. 14: UA upsets No. 2 UCLA in 1980 when Bruins appeared ready to be No. 1

No. 15: L.A. Times reporter: Arizona shows “fight of wildcats” in 1914 game vs. Occidental

No. 16: UA leads UCLA late in third quarter but loses big in 12-1 season

No. 17: Unranked Arizona upsets Ohio State, Woody Hayes in Buckeyes’ 1967 opener in Columbus

No. 18: Arizona and hasty coach Mudra lose Ultimatum Bowl to ASU in 1968

No. 19: Arizona keeps “The Streak” without loss to ASU alive in ’87 with bizarre finish that ends in tie

No. 20: Arizona fit to be tied with Cal despite leading 26-3 in third quarter

No. 21: Zendejas’ last-second 45-yard FG vs. ASU generates momentum for “The Streak” to endure

No. 22: Arizona wins its first bowl behind “Heat-seeking Missile” Chuck Cecil

No. 23: Collapse vs. Utah after leading 27-0 in fourth quarter changed the face of UA football

No. 24: UA shuts out ASU, Kush during dominating run for Sun Devils coach

No. 25: Arizona’s defense and Doug Pfaff’s last-second FG enough to upset sixth-ranked Oklahoma

No. 26: UA upsets ASU from Fiesta Bowl consideration in program’s best stretch

No. 27: Trung Canidate rushes for record 288 yards and three long TDs in ’98 shootout against ASU

No. 28: UA dominates No. 3 SMU, highest ranked non-conference foe to lose to Cats

No. 29: Arizona stuns second-ranked Oregon in most significant victory in Mike Stoops era

No. 30: Arizona’s win on last-second FG over ASU ends Frank Kush’s dominance in the series

No. 31: Arizona reaches its zenith under Mike Stoops with victory over Brigham Young in Las Vegas Bowl

No. 32: Arizona owed Cal a couple, knock Bears out of BCS title, Rose Bowl run

No. 33: Arizona’s 10-9 loss at Oregon in 1994, derailing its Rose Bowl hopes, still hurts

No. 34: ASU ripe for picking in banana uniforms for “The Streak” to reach eight

No. 35: Arizona tries risky fake PAT to beat California but loses in epic 4 overtime game

No. 36: Veal to Hill “Hail Mary” pass highlights “The Streak” reaching seven games against ASU

No. 37: USC outlasts Arizona 48-41 in one of most wild games played in Tucson

No. 38: Arizona Wildcats’ comeback against Nevada No. 38 in Top 50 games list

No. 39: Arizona shows signs of life under Mike Stoops with rout over No. 7 UCLA

No. 40: Art Luppino “The Cactus Comet” rockets toward 38 yards per carry and five touchdowns

No. 41: Fumblerooski enables Arizona to sweep USC, UCLA in L.A. for first time

No. 42: Sun Devil nemesis Dan White quarterbacks Arizona into Fiesta Bowl with win over ASU

No. 43: Struggling UA gets improbable win against ’83 Pac-10 champ UCLA

No. 44: Closing chapter of “The Streak” includes Arizona’s dramatic fourth-quarter heroics

No. 45: Arizona overcomes rival Texas Tech with unfathomable late-game rally

No. 46: Dick Tomey, the Desert Fox, does a number on UCLA by changing offense in midseason

No. 47: “The Streak” reaches three games, UA achieves best Pac-10 finish

No. 48: Arizona’s first game at Arizona Stadium in 1929, a 35-0 win over Cal Tech

No. 49: Underdog Arizona’s 2011 thriller over arch-rival Arizona State

No. 50: Arizona’s first win over arch-rival Arizona State, then known as Territorial Normal

Dropped out: Arizona’s first win in program’s history: 22-5 over Tucson Indians

WILDABOUTAZCATS.net publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He also writes blogs for Lindy’s College Sports, TucsonCitizen.com and Sports Illustrated-sponsored site ZonaZealots.com.


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