Arizona Football

The comings and goings of Arizona Wildcats’ quarterback position




[ezcol_1half id=”” class=”” style=””]

Can Anu Solomon be the first freshman to become Arizona's leading quarterback since Kris Heavner in 2003?

Can Anu Solomon be the first freshman to become Arizona’s leading quarterback since Kris Heavner in 2003?

Normally a major-college football program has a two-year or three-year starter who leads the team in passing, lending some continuity to the offense.

Unproven upperclassmen, such as seniors Matt Scott and B.J. Denker the last two seasons, usually do not stay to the end to lead a team in passing for only one season.

They transfer or hold the clipboard on the sideline. They may graciously serve as a mentor to the younger starting quarterback until the end of their careers.

Since 1958, Tom Tunnicliffe (1980-83) is the only quarterback to lead the Wildcats in passing all four years of his career. Arizona has featured nine quarterbacks who have led the Wildcats in passing in three different years, the most recent being Nick Foles from 2009-11. Seven have led the UA in passing twice, with Richard Kovalcheck the last in 2004 and 2005.

Ten have emerged as the top passer in only one season with Scott in 2012 becoming the first senior with that distinction since Bill Brechler in 1963. Denker’s emergence as Arizona’s leading passer last year made history. It was the first time two seniors consecutively led Arizona in passing — in their only year as the top signal-caller — since quarterback records have been tabulated by Arizona in 1958.

Why is it such a big deal?

First of all, it’s rare.

Second, it demonstrates how Arizona continues to be in a state of flux in Rodriguez’s third year in Tucson.

Third, Rodriguez, on record saying he wants a roster loaded with quarterbacks, can go with any quarterback at any time. That increases the possibility of a different senior starting in consecutive years now and in the future (as long as the quarterback does not get forced out or transfers before his senior year).

Jesse Scroggins is Arizona’s only senior quarterback on the roster. Will he follow in the footsteps of Scott and Denker?


[ezcol_1half_end id=”” class=”” style=””]


[table “” not found /]


[ezcol_1half id=”” class=”” style=””]

One thing is for certain: Arizona will have a different leading quarterback for the fourth consecutive year, a rare occurrence. The last time that happened was from 1995-98 (Dan White in 1995, Keith Smith in 1996, Ortege Jenkins in 1997 and then Smith again in 1998).

In a 20-year span (1980-1999) close to the program’s start in the Pac-12 (then the Pac-10), the Wildcats had only seven different quarterbacks. Since 2000, in only 14 seasons, the Wildcats have featured eight.

Arizona averaged 4.4 conference wins a season from 1980-1999. The Wildcats average only 2.7 conference wins a season since 2000.

Much of that has to do with Arizona having four head coaches since the 2000 season. From 1980 to 1999, the Wildcats had only two (Larry Smith and Dick Tomey). The changes over the last 14 years have affected Arizona’s ability to establish a system and continuity of personnel.


[ezcol_1half_end id=”” class=”” style=””]


Does a program need a four-year starter at quarterback to reach the top? No. Texas A&M and Florida State have proven capable with freshmen (Johnny Manziel and Jameis Winston, respectively) running the show the last two years.

Those teams were in the national spotlight with a bevy of talent around Manziel and Winston, both of whom evolved into Heisman-level quarterbacks. Arizona has talent at the receiver positions and an experienced offensive line. Running back is a question mark with Ka’Deem Carey gone.

Nobody knows how good Arizona’s quarterbacks can be, just like fans at Texas A&M and Florida State did not have clue about Manziel and Winston entering their freshman seasons.

Arizona’s level of success with untested quarterbacks is eight wins and a fourth-place finish in the Pac-12 South under Rodriguez in the last two years respectively. Not bad but what will it take to get over the hump?

Talent (first and foremost), continuity and adaptability to Rodriguez’s system.

Rodriguez built a reputation as an elite winning coach at West Virginia in his seven years there from 2001 to 2007. The Mountaineers featured only two quarterbacks — Rasheed Marshall and Pat White — in the last six of those years. Including his three years at Michigan, Rodriguez is about to coach his seventh different quarterback in as many years since his last season at West Virginia.

Rodriguez is again at the drawing board with the most important position on the field, the quarterback.

Arizona fans hope it’s not a case of the more things change, the more they stay the same, but a Manziel or Winston miracle instead. publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He also writes articles for Bleacher Report and Lindy’s College Sports.

To Top