If career starts on the offensive line are an indication for success, the Arizona Wildcats are in for a decent season in 2017.
According to data provided by college football analyst Phil Steele, the Wildcats are tied for 15th in the nation with North Carolina State with 89 career starts, second only to Washington (97) in the Pac-12.
The season starts 11 Saturdays from now, on Sept. 2, when the Wildcats host NAU at Arizona Stadium.
Of course, other variables are involved with the offense, most notably quarterback play in addition to the health of the running backs and the dependability of the receivers.
The Wildcats have question marks in all these areas with Anu Solomon off to Baylor and Brandon Dawkins and Khalil Tate still trying to prove themselves at this level at quarterback, Nick Wilson coming off two injury-marred seasons and receivers such as Samajie Grant, Nate Phillips and Trey Griffey exhausting their eligibility.
Steele is one who believes the experience of the offensive line is significant.
“When most judge a team for the upcoming season they look at the QB, RB and WR’s that are returning,” Steele writes. “A few may take the time to look at star defensive players that are back (those with a lot of sacks or interceptions). However, very few look at the offensive line and yet the team that controls the line of scrimmage wins the game more often than not.”
Arizona ranked 85th nationally last year allowing 2.33 sacks a game (28 overall in 12 games). The Wildcats’ running game ranked No. 19 averaging 235 yards a carry, but most of that was from Dawkins becoming a run-first quarterback. Injuries claimed Wilson and J.J. Taylor early in the season and made the running attack from that position listless.
At least Rich Rodriguez has something to look forward to with his offensive line having the most returning career starts in the Pac-12 South. UCLA is next at No. 23 with 85 career starts. Arch-rival ASU is 105th with only 41 career starts among its returning offensive linemen.
This was Arizona’s depth chart at offensive line entering the season-ending game won by the Wildcats over ASU last season (with returners in bold):
LT 58 Layth Friekh 6-5 282 Sr.
76 Cody Creason 6-4 294 Soph.
LG 72 Freddie Tagaloa 6-8 314
or 69 Christian Boettcher 6-2 285 Jr.
C 64 Nathan Eldridge 6-3 290 Soph.
55 Levi Walton 6-3 290 Jr.
RG 78 Jacob Alsadek 6-7 315 Sr.
74 Alex Kosinski 6-4 291 Soph.
RT 67 Gerhard de Beer 6-7 314 Sr.
76 Cody Creason 6-4 294 RS Soph.
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.