Weekday football. Seek it out. Let it into your heart. Nine out of ten doctors agree that a mid-week dose of football is effective in treating depression, heart break and erectile dysfunction. The other doctor is an FIU fan. Today herculean start-up UTSA plays host to Rich Rodriguez and his record-breaking Wildcats. UTSA's stout, veteran defense will seek to slow down an offense that lit up UNLV for nearly 800 yards of offense last Friday. We linked up with SB Nation's Arizona blog, Arizona Desert Swarm, to get a finger on the pulse of the Wildcat program heading into today's match up, set to be broadcast on Fox Sports 1 at 7:00 pm CST.
I imagine Anu Solomon has Arizona fans buzzing after his record-setting performance in his freshman debut. What were your impressions of the young QB and how do you think he will handle his first road game?
Solomon had a pretty strong arm and at times pulled the ball on the zone-read plays to keep the defense honest. I think the biggest thing we learned about him is that he's calm and able to control his emotions. He had about four or five overthrows in the first two possessions, which was understandable in his first game, but as the coaches expected he eventually calmed down and started throwing darts. That at least bodes well for his first road game. Who knows if he can hit so many deep balls -- UNLV's secondary was just plain slow? What's good is he didn't make any plays you could label as "freshman mistakes."
All-American RB Ka'Deem Carey was a big loss for Arizona but former walk-on Terris Jones-Grigsby and freshman Nick Wilson both played well against UNLV in week one. How do you see the running back position shaping up moving forward?
It seems Wilson jumped over UNLV transfer Adonis Smith for the second spot, and it's hard to say how he'll split carries with Jones-Grigsby, who took almost every snap through the first 2.5 quarters in the opener. I think Wilson may step in here or there, but it's Jones-Grigsby's job to lose. He did have a fumble so if that pops up again, Wilson might get some more reps. Either way, this is a much more pass-happy team than last year because the receiver group is deeper and more talented and the quarterback is more suited to a passing style. (Editor's note: Terris Jones-Grigsby has been listed as "Questionable" on the Arizona injury report since this interview was conducted.)
There was a lot of commotion over the offseason regarding safety Tra'Mayne Bondurant's status as a Wildcat. Bondurant saw playing time in the win over UNLV but he is not listed in Arizona's depth chart for this week. What are your expectations for Bondurant this week?
Honestly I have no clue. He was on spot duty and you had to really keep an eye out to find him on the field. I think he's working his way back from those disciplinary issues, but Arizona is in no rush to bring him back despite how good he is. Replacement spur safety William Parks made some big plays in his start last week and should be capable of holding down the fort for a while.
What was your overall assessment of Arizona's play in week one and what will you be watching to see if the Wildcats can improve upon against UTSA?
There was very little to complain about in the UNLV game, but the score and the way Arizona scored skewed the offensive production. Two scoring drives were only one play long, and two more were three plays each. More evidence of sustained offensive success would be positive to see against UTSA after seeing how they handled Houston.
Besides a changing of the guards at QB and RB, what differences will UTSA fans notice from the 2013 squad to today?
Again, the first thing is that those changes will make this team completely different offensively. Last year, quarterback B.J. Denker was all about running the zone read with Ka'Deem Carey. This year, there will be a lot more passing it about. The Wildcats return the same receiving group but add Notre Dame transfer DaVonte' Neal and Texas transfer Cayleb Jones. They also have Austin Hill, who last year was out with a knee injury. Hill was an All-Pac-12 receiver two years ago.
And finally, your prediction for Thursday?
I'll go with a 31-20 win for the Wildcats. I think they'll have some issues getting out of the blocks and need to adjust against a team that clearly can give them some defensive resistance. Overall, though, there weren't many signs that Solomon or the offensive will make too many egregious errors that would allow UTSA to have another plus-5 in the turnover department.
Thanks again to Kevin at Arizona Desert Swarm for helping us put this together. You can read my end of the exchange over at their site.