By Charles Renning
KEVIN B. KLAUS/Arizona Daily Wildcat
UA tailback Mike Bell cuts upfield during the Wildcats' 34-27 win over ASU Friday. Bell and fellow backs Gilbert Harris and Chris Henry should all return in 2005.
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, December 1, 2004
Heading into the Arizona football team's win over in-state rival Arizona State, the Wildcats were ranked last out of all 117 Division I-A teams in offensive scoring, averaging only 13 points per contest.
Arizona struggled much of the year moving the ball and putting points on the board, scoring over 20 points in just their three wins; however good news came in the form of the team's 34-point performance against the Sun Devils. The Wildcats set several season highs in the win and return seven of the eleven starters from Friday's game.
"We showed that we can do some things offensively," said head coach Mike Stoops following the Territorial Cup victory. "I was really proud of our offense. We attacked in a lot of ways. That was an area I thought we'd have to score some points to win and obviously we did that today."
Stoops acknowledged the Wildcats would need to pick up the scoring in their offense in order to be successful in the Pacific 10 Conference and hopes the ASU game is just a glimpse of things to come the start of the 2005 season.
Key Returners: sophomore Richard Kovalcheck, walk-on junior Adam Austin
Key Losses: junior Kris Heavner, senior Nic Costa, junior Ryan O'Hara
The Arizona offenses took a huge blow this season with three scholarship signal callers leaving in the last few months. The Arizona Daily Star reported yesterday that after beginning the season as the team's No. 1 quarterback, Heavner will transfer to Baylor next semester to be closer to his family. That will leave the field general duties solely up to Kovalcheck, who finished the year starting the last five games for Arizona. He could get pushed for playing time by recruit Willie Tuitama, but it would be tough for the rookie to learn offensive coordinator Mike Canales' scheme next season.
Key Returners: senior Mike Bell, senior Gilbert Harris, sophomore Chris Henry
Key Losses: none
Nearly all of the Wildcats' rushing production comes back next year and Bell is coming off a career high in yardage, finishing with 950. Harris also made great contributions to the ground game, but missed nearly half of the year due to injury. Arizona could have a potent three-headed monster in the backfield with the return of Henry, who showed spots of brilliance as well.
Key Returners: junior Pedro Limon
Key Losses: none
Limon was the Wildcats primary fullback for much of the year, primarily as a blocking back, but did record six catches on the season. His return adds more stability to a veteran backfield.
Key Returners: junior Mike Jefferson, sophomore Anthony Johnson, freshman Bobby McCoy, sophomore B.J. Dennard, junior Syndric Steptoe, senior Biren Ealy, junior Ryan Eidson
Key Losses: Ricky Williams
An area that lacked playmakers heading into the matchup with ASU, Dennard, Jefferson and Steptoe all made plays against the Sun Devils and will need to become more involved in the UA offense if the Wildcats want to climb out of the D-I cellar. Arizona had only three players haul in more than 20 catches, including the departing Williams. Stoops said McCoy, who redshirted this season, could play a big offensive role next season.
Key Returners: junior Brad Wood
Key Losses: Steve Fleming, Clarence McRae
Fleming was another one of the only three 20-plus pass catchers on the Arizona offense and his blocking ability will also be missed. The Wildcats have a slew of freshmen tight ends in the wings, but none have seen much action with Fleming and McRae taking most of the snaps.
Key Returners: senior John Abramo, senior Tanner Bell, sophomore Peter Graniello, senior Kili Lefotu, junior John Parada
Key Losses: Keoki Fraser, Chris Johnson, and Brandon Phillips
The Arizona offensive line returns three of five starters, but loses its anchor in Fraser, who will probably get an NFL tryout. The good news is the Wildcats return plenty of game experience up front and have some young talent hoping to work into the lineup. This group led a rushing attack that gained nearly 1,300 yards in 11 games and had one of its best performances against ASU. The unit also allowed just 20 sacks.
Key Returners: freshman Jason Bondzio, junior Nick Folk
Key Losses: none
Folk handled all Arizona's placekicking duties this season and caught fire late in the year, hitting from 48 and 53 yards in his last two games. The UA kicking game has faltered in recent years, but if Folk can build off of his late-season performance, he should be the guy. Bondzio is waiting if Folk falters.