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Rich Rodriguez and the Arizona Wildcats are 2-1 this season, with wins against Grambling State and Hawaii. The Wildcats could be 3-0, but suffered a tough loss against BYU, with the Cougars hitting a 33-yard field goal with four seconds left.
Overall, the whole team has been playing great, averaging 31.3 points per game and allowing 22.3 points on defense.
The hiring of defensive coordinator Marcel Yates is already showing to be an excellent signing, as the Wildcats are right in the middle of the pack when it comes to team defense in the Pac-12, ahead of teams such as UCLA and USC. With both sides of the ball excelling, there are stand out players on both sides of the ball.
Sophomore Quarterback Brandon Dawkins
The sophomore showed glimpses of his rushing ability last season, rushing for 179 yards and two touchdowns in limited playing time. In only three games this season he has 215 yards and five touchdowns on the ground, averaging 6.9 yards a pop. Dawkins has also controlled the game with his arm, posting a 152.1 QB rating with his 458 yards and two touchdowns on his 62 percent completion rate. Dawkins accounted for four touchdowns against Hawaii, running for three scores and throwing one to Shun Brown.
Senior Linebacker DeAndre’ Miller
Arizona hired Yates to revamp their defense and to get the best out of the existing players on their roster. Yates’ defense relies on a “stud” defender, a defensive end/outside linebacker whose primary responsibilities are rushing the passer and dropping into coverage, but mainly rushing the passer. The 6’3”, 240-pound senior is excelling in his new role, posting the best numbers of his career. In 11 games last season, Miller recorded 50 total tackles, eight tackles for losses, and only two sacks. Now under Yates, Miller has 13 total tackles, a team-leading four tackles for losses and two sacks. Miller is expected to finish his Wildcat career with career highs in nearly every category.
Freshman Running Back J.J. Taylor
After recording minus-4 yards in the first two games, J.J. Taylor seized his opportunity against Hawaii when starting running back Nick Wilson left the game with a leg injury, rushing for 168 yards and one touchdown on 18 carries, including a 61-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. Expect Taylor to get more reps in the running rotation, especially after a strong showing against Hawaii. Taylor showed his strength and explosion; making cuts, spin moves, and stiff arms. Don’t be surprised for a few more breakout games out of Taylor with Rodriguez saying, “He’s got a shiftiness to him obviously and he really is mature beyond his years as far as this level of football. J.J. is going to get a great opportunity to play a lot.” Taylor got a late start to the season after dealing with and eligibility issues stemming from a pair of Penguins tickets he accepted in high school.
Dawkins has carried the offense for the Wildcats while Miller has fronted the defense this season. Both have been stand out players, showing how important they are to the team’s success. Taylor may only have had one big game, but expect him to play a huge role in the offense moving forward. Dawkins, Miller, and Taylor will need to keep making plays if the Wildcats want to compete in the Pac-12.
Mike Robinson has been watching sports since the dawn of time, or at least since he was born. He’s one of those weirdos who doesn’t have any true home team that he roots for, he just loves the game. You can find his fire takes (or lack thereof) on Twitter at @mrobinson2648.