Welcome to our new segment of “Ask The Sports Guys”. This week, staff writer Anthony Gimino, one of the Sports Guys and a contributor to TucsonNewsNow.com, among other things, answers questions submitted by Arizona fans who work at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. Another one of our staffers, Jose Roman Jr., is a veteran who works at the base and compiled the questions. Please note the questions below are not entirely addressed in the video above. The Sports Guys talk among themselves about the Wildcats; the questions below are submitted for them to write a response.
Q: Any word on the injury Brandon Dawkins sustained? Nick Wilson? Gerhard de Beer and anyone else on the OL? Every game so far, there’s always at least one OL that trainers have to tend to on the field.
A: Check out our breakdown of the injury list.
Q: When Rich Rodriguez took over the program, only one QB (Matt Scott) was on scholarship at Arizona. Now the dilemma (to us fans from the outside looking in) he faces is which of three potential starters he needs to go with. I can really only think of Ohio State, in recent memory with a similar problem. Does the coaching staff see the potential starting depth as a dilemma at all? Or is it a great problem to have?
A: Arizona might think it has three quarterbacks it can win with, but this isn’t close to an Ohio State situation. Braxton Miller was a two-time Big Ten MVP; Cardale Jones led the Buckeyes to a national championship; J.T. Barrett has Heisman talent. Having “too many” quarterbacks is never a problem. It’s like saying in spring training that you have too much starting pitching. You never do. That’s not to say that Anu Solomon, Brandon Dawkins and Khalil Tate will all be around next season at Arizona. Check back in the offseason.
Q: What does Rich Rod have to consider moving forward before picking a QB to stick with?
A: Health, first and foremost. Beyond that, this offense right now needs a running quarterback like Dawkins or Tate to offset all the attrition at tailback. One or both of those guys also represent at least the near future of the position at Arizona, so let them both play.
Q: Does Rich Rod go week to week and decide based on the defense they’ll be facing?
A: No. I don’t think defenses are all that different anyway, but Arizona is going to pick its best healthiest quarterback, period.
Q: Anu Solomon can conceivably be listed as far down as third on the depth chart after having two full seasons under his belt as the man behind center. Is there a real possibility of Solomon transferring with Burmeister, Rhett Rod and other pretty highly touted QB recruits coming in and with two younger very formidable QBs already on the roster?
A: Short answer: Yes. Shouldn’t be a surprise. Each year in the past few years, about 60 FBS scholarship quarterbacks transfer. The search for playing time is real.
Q: Can you see any way Anu works his way back onto the field as the No. 1 man behind center?
A: Only if the other two guys are injured.
Q: Should Nick Wilson be out for the rest of the season? He continues to get hurt every time he sees the field dating back to last season. Has he ever really fully recovered?
A: Arizona was cautious with him in fall camp, but he was 100 percent healthy going into the season. If he can play, he will. He might have rushed back last week before the UCLA game. There is no benefit in that. But once his ankle gets close to 100 percent, he needs to play.
Q: The WR position was considered to be the strongest position going into this season. Have they done enough to get open for their QBs?
A: It was considered a deep position, not sure how strong it was expected to be. Solid, maybe. Problem is, nobody in the receiving corps is a legit game-breaker or deep threat. It helps to have one or two of those games to at least shift coverage and help other guys get open. The quarterback carousel hasn’t helped, either, and Arizona is passing less overall because its quarterbacks are running, not throwing. Sophomore Shun Brown looks promising, but there is definitely room for upgrades via recruiting.
Q: From the stands at Arizona Stadium, the defense seems to be performing well given the fact they are working with an entirely new staff. The lack of offensive production at times seems to leave them out there for a lot longer than you’d like to see them. Rich Rod has said he’d like more three-and-outs from his defense, but his own offense has had trouble staying on the field and have a woeful third-down conversion percentage. They have also failed to convert on many fourth downs. Can you tell us in your expert opinion with the time you’ve spent working close to the team, how would you summarize Arizona’s defensive performance thus far in relation to the offensive performance?
A: Arizona does seem to be “swarming” more on defense and getting pressure on the quarterback, but the results aren’t that much different from last year. It’s always about the personnel. There just isn’t a lot of all-league talent on that side of the ball right now. There are some good young pieces in the secondary, such as sophomore Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles, and true freshman Tristan Cooper and Isaiah Hayes. The second year is coordinator Marcel Yates’ scheme is when tangible progress should be seen.
Q: Who gets the nods at QB and RB in Utah?
A: Khalil Tate and Tyrell Johnson. Just how everyone predicted before the season.
Q: Is this season salvageable or should the staff play more for next season given the injuries they’ve sustained? (For example go with Tate and keep him in now that his redshirt is burned and try expanding his play calling packages, etc).
A: Coaches never look too far in the future. Rich Rod is trying to win games RIGHT NOW. It’s simple: He’ll play whoever he thinks gives him the best chance to win this week’s game.
Q: With all that said, considering everything Arizona has been through already this season (decimation at QB and RB positions), what would Arizona need to do to at least compete with the Utes?
A: Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers.
Q: I really don’t like talking about hot seats or saying that anyone should lose their job. But how much more patience should fans have before they can expect to see Arizona Pac-12 South contenders year in and out? How much patience does the AD have moving forward? I personally believe UA fans couldn’t really ask for or expect anything much better than what is already in place. I remember the cupboards being very bare when Rich Rod and his staff arrived and I feel like the talent level is beginning to mount. Am I wrong? How much longer is too long to wait for the program to begin taking the next steps in competitiveness?
A: A lot of questions there. In general, I don’t think Rodriguez is on a hot seat. That’s a fair question for next season, though. … (Keep expectations realistic. No team competes for the South title every year, not even USC and UCLA. Arizona should be able to make a run probably three out of five years, and hope it catches lightning in a bottle, like it did in 2014.)