RB Nic Grigsby (PHOTO CREDIT: Luke Adams-UA athletics)
9-19-09 at Iowa
9-26-09 at Oregon State
10-10-09 at Washington
10-17-09 STANFORD
10-24-09 UCLA
11-14-09 at California
11-21-09 OREGON
11-28-08 at Arizona State
12-5-09 at Southern California
Coach: Mike Stoops
25-34, 5 years

2008 Statistics

2008 RESULTS: 8-5
at New Mexico LOST 28-36
at UCLA WON 31-10
at Stanford LOST 23-24
USC LOST 10-17
at Washington State WON 59-28
at Oregon LOST 45-55
Brigham Young WON 31-21

2008 Final Rankings
AP-36, Coaches-32, BCS-UR


2009 Outlook

Head coach Mike Stoops enters his fifth season in Tucson. After those first two dreadful, three-win campaigns (‘04 and ‘05), folks started to wonder if luring the Oklahoma Sooner’s defensive coordinator away from his brother (and head coach) Bob was really a wise choice. Arizona has slowly gotten better each season, and the recruiting classes have not fallen short. The eight wins of 2008 gave Mike his best win total yet, and there is promise ahead for these Cats.

The first glaring need will be at QB, where school record-setter Willie Tuitama is no longer available. Two new faces are attempting to get their first tastes of starting action. Expect to see both Matt Scott and Nick Foles on the field at different points. Scott appears to be the early favorite, mostly because he has an advantage with his feet. New quarterbacks usually have a difficult time grasping this intricate passing game, so Scott’s running dimension could be the deciding factor for team success.

By far, the best unit on either side of the ball is at receiver, which is hard to imagine considering Pac Ten career reception record holder Mike Thomas has moved on to the NFL. A boatload of talent exists, and tight end Rob Gronkowski’s status as a consensus choice on most every pre and post-season All-American list means the Wildcat snarlers will help to foster both hurlers.

This offense is a multiple spread set up; a tight end with four other players (also) running routes is never out of the question. They also line up and play the power game with three tailbacks worthy of carrying the ball at any time. The Wildcats have five coaches with Texas Tech backgrounds operating this attack, which means they have considerable experience operating such a complicated approach.

Still, it will be the defense that makes or breaks the final outcome of 2009. Each unit on D is blessed with experienced depth. Finding a playmaker amongst the front seven, especially a serious pass rusher, would be a huge lift. Linebacker Sterling Lewis has All-Pac Ten status in his future, and the secondary boasts ball hawks on the corner as well as some of the best safety talent in the conference.

Mike Stoops built his coaching career on the defensive side of the ball. While on paper they may not have the most All-American types across the board, expect the entire group to rarely display a weak link.

The early schedule isn’t so demanding. Outside of a road game at Iowa, the Cats should actually be considered the early favorite in seven of their first eight games.

At some point of Mike Stoops’ Arizona coaching career, the entire package is going to work. As time continues to pass and results have varied, one can sense a small (but growing) frustration level in the Desert - when will the expectations finally come to fruition?

With only two real immediate concerns for 2009 (offensive tackles and QBs), it’s simple: If the quarterback(s) can avoid too many costly mistakes and the team remains healthy, Arizona will keep getting better. Nine wins must be definitely doable. Bear down!

Projected 2009 record: 8-4
CB Devin Ross (PHOTO CREDIT: UA athletics)
2008 Statistical Rankings
Total Off:
Sacks Allow:
Total Def:

Passing: Matt Scott, 7-11-0, 84 yds., 1 TD

Rushing: Nic Grigsby, 214 att., 1153 yds., 13 TD

Receiving: Delashaun Dean, 53 rec., 593 yds., 4 TD

Scoring: Nic Grigsby, 13 TD, 78 pts.

Punting: Keenyn Crier, 48 punts, 43.9 avg.

Kicking: Alex Zendejas, 5-5 PAT, 5 pts.

Tackles: Cam Nelson, 67 tot., 41 solo

Sacks: Brooks Reed, 8 sacks

Interceptions: Trevin Wade, 4 for 78 yds.

Kickoff Returns: Keola Antolin, 15 ret., 21.5 avg., 0 TD

Punt Returns: William Wright, 2 ret., 29.0 avg., 0 TD


RB Greg Nwoko - The redshirt frosh is going to play a big role in 2009. The 6'2, 220 pound bruising ball carrier is proving to be the much needed answer in short yardage situations and more.
DT Jonathan Hollins - A JUCO transfer who will arrive this fall and immediately compete for a starting job despite descent depth at his position. He was a former Top 40 prep player out of Louisiana.
OT Trace Biskin - One of the top young prospects up front who redshirted last season. He will get a chance to shine, as both tackles spots are open for the taking.
2009 College Football Preview
OFFENSE: Willie Tuitama-QB, Mike Thomas-WR, Joe Longacre-OG, James Tretheway-OT, Jason Bondzio-K, Eben Britton-OT (NFL)
DEFENSE: Adrian McCovy-LB, Ronnie Palmer-LB, Marquis Hundley-CB, Nate Ness-FS


Finding a quarterback is priority No. 1 and is likely the main aspect that keeps Arizona from being ranked much higher in preseason polls. The Cats now enter the post-Willie Tuitama era. This multiple spread offense profited from Tuitama's efforts as he left the school as the record holder in completions, attempts, yards and touchdowns. Throughout the spring it has appeared that Matt Scott has put a decent grip on the starting job. But his competition with Michigan State transfer Nick Foles is far from over. No question Corona, CA native Matt Scott possesses the best feet. The differences between the two have been evident in this regard. and this offense looks more diverse when Scott is behind center. Scott has also become more of the fan favorite because of this ability to run. The big early problem is that both lack consistency, which has to be expected for first year incumbents. This offense takes a different identity when one or the other takes the field. Foles is gaining ground in terms of understanding the offense and coach Stoops said he has no plans of naming a starter any time soon.


The featured ball carrier in this backfield is Nic Grigsby, an All-Pac Ten honorable mention pick. When Grigsby is at the top of his game, his moves make defenders look foolish. But fumbles have been a big concern with the athletic scat-back; at times, he had to be taken out of the lineup. Keola Antolin burst onto the scene as a true freshman when filling in for Grigsby and set a freshman school record with 10 touchdowns. Many opponents have underestimated this spread offense’s power game. While the two aforementioned backs offer the most elusiveness and experience, the player that turned heads this spring has been bruising redshirt freshman Greg Nwoko. His big frame and power bursts make him the best option between the tackles and near the goal line, two things this offense has been missing for quite some time. Nwoko is the type of runner that won't get taken down easily. He is going to be a major contributor in 2009 splitting time at running back or as a replacement for halfback Chris Gronkowski.


The entire offense has made huge strides under offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes the past couple of seasons. Much of the success can be attributed to the elevated play of the men catching passes. With so many improvements toward the better and a unit full of top rated playmakers, the expectations for this corps are the highest yet. Granted the departure of the Pac Ten's career reception leader Mike Thomas leaves a huge void. The person stepping in his place, though, has had a magnificent spring and eerily has drawn equal comparisons. William "Bug" Wright possesses the same natural hands, size and speed. He has been used much the same in this scheme and has made many believe it truly was Mike Thomas still in uniform. His style should compliment Delashaun Dean quite nicely as Dean is the more physical, possession type (team's leading returning receiver). Terrell Turner is another proven playmaker that brings a ton of experience to the mix. Then there is halfback Chris Gronkowski who no one thought would ever play a role in this offense until a few games into last season. As it turned out, he made a huge impact as a nifty multi-dimensional threat in the backfield as a blocker and pass catcher. The player getting the most national recognition (2008 Third Team AP All-American) is tight end Rob Gronkowski, the younger brother of Chris. When one considers the entire package of blocking skills, open-field power/speed, route running and catching ability, there may be no one better at this position. This entire collection of receivers will be the strength of the Arizona offense in 2009.


The first order of business in Tucson will be locating two dependable tackles. The glaring loss is LT Eben Britton (declared early for the NFL). Several possibilities are contending to fill his shoes. Jack Julsing, who has worked his way to the top of the depth chart, was one of two JUCO tackles to enroll this January. Another option is Phillip Garcia, but he is still not fully recovered from last year's ACL surgery. He has yet to be cleared for full physical contact. The third candidate is top young prospect Trace Biskin. Most felt Biskin would be the top contender at the start of the spring. Between the three of them, each seemingly has an equal chance. The only true experience is with Adam Grant, who started five 2008 games on the right side before an injury ended his campaign. The loss of 40-game starter Joe Longacre at guard is a top concern. Hopes are that senior center Blake Kerley has recovered from his own 2008 knee surgery. Otherwise, junior Colin Baxter returns for his third year (has started at both guard and center). It appears the shifting of the tackles, plus the incoming flux of two JUCO spring enrollees, spells the fact that coaches are still unsettled as to a sure fire OL depth chart. They struggled to keep defensive linemen out of the backfield all spring. Offensively, issues up front and at QB need to be ironed out before this offense can again be dangerous.


TE Rob Gronkowski (PHOTO CREDIT: UA athletics)


Returning Starters/
Key Players
QB Matt Scott-So (6-3, 190) Nick Foles-So (6-5, 235)
RB Nic Grigsby-Jr (5-10, 190) Keola Antolin-So (5-8, 186)
HB Chris Gronkowski-Sr (6-2, 235) Greg Nwoko-RFr (6-2, 220) (RB)
WR Delashaun Dean-Jr (6-4, 202) William Wright-So (5-9, 175)
WR Terrell Turner-Sr (6-2, 190) Juron Criner-So (6-4, 210)
TE Rob Gronkowski-Jr (6-6, 265) A.J. Simmons-Jr (6-3, 255)
OT Jack Julsing-Jr (6-8, 295) Phillip Garcia-Jr (6-7, 325)
OG Mike Diaz-Sr (6-5, 320) Conan Amituanai-Jr (6-4, 335)
C Colin Baxter-Jr (6-4, 295) Blake Kerley-Sr (6-2, 285)
OG Vaughn Dotsy-So (6-5, 335) Jovon Hayes-Jr (6-2, 300)
OT Adam Grant-Sr (6-6, 325) Trace Biskin-RFr (6-5, 295)
K Alex Zendejas-So (5-11, 190) ..





Everyone is back! The only obvious cemented starters, however, are Brooks Reed on the outside and Earl Mitchell inside; the other two spots are still in contention. Reed led the team with eight sacks and 10 tackles for loss as a sophomore. Thus far he has proven to be the best asset for applying pressure. Last year's starter opposite Reed, Ricky Elmore, returns as the most consistent player battling for this other end spot. Elmore apparently is feeling the pressure from D'Aundre Reed, who is proving to be a great pass rusher, and the Cats need more of that. Earl Mitchell, an ex-TE (2007) with a complete skill set that coaches wanted on the field more, was relocated to defensive tackle. Mitchell wound up starting every game last year and earned All-Pac Ten Honorable Mention. Lolomana Mikaele was set to start alongside Mitchell before getting suspended (administrative issue). He returns and has worked his way back into the rotation. Also keep an eye inside on incoming JUCO transfer Jonathan Hollis, who is expected to battle for a starting job. The bottom line is that 10 different players are returning with starting experience. A better pass rush would have to be the most pressing need. If both of the Reeds (Brooks and D'Aundre) can continue to develop on the outside while addressing this aspect, this entire defense has the potential to be twice as good.


Replacing stalwart Ronnie Palmer in the middle would normally be a difficult task. Luckily, most of the returnees have a good bit of starting experience. The top of the depth chart appears to be more than settled. Seniors Lewis, Tuihalamaka and Kelley have locked down these roles. Sterling Lewis is on a path to become an All-Pac Ten type after just one year at the FBS level. The '08 JUCO transfer out of the state of Texas has the quickness and tenacity that allow him to always be around the ball…and he rarely misses tackles. Texas has always been known to produce great linebackers; Xavier Kelley is the second Wildcat Texan in this tradition. The fifth-year player will hold down the weakside again after starting eight contests last fall. In the middle will now be Vuna Tuihalamaka, another JUCO transfer that came in game-ready a year ago. This may be the fasted trio of linebackers thus far in the Mike Stoops head-coaching era, and a second year together can only improve the group’s results.


One of the Pac Ten's top cover men for this upcoming season will be CB Devin Ross. Since arriving in 2006, he has played and studied under (eventual pros) Antoine Cason and Wilrey Fontenot. Ross’s knack for closing on the ball mean he’s primed to join the school's all-time chart for PBUs (passes broken up). The top choice at the other corner spot appears to be Trevin Wade, who led the team with four picks last fall in just his first FBS season. Do not count out JUCO transfer Marcus Benjamin as he makes a strong push. He appears to be developing into a solid collegiate corner under defensive coordinator Mark Stoops. One of the wiser moves on the defensive side this spring was shifting Robert Golden from corner to safety. Golden was the top (rated) gem of the ‘08 recruiting class, and his size is a natural fit at strong safety. Senior Cam Nelson manned this position last fall and returns as the team's top tackler. He will now be moved to free safety. Despite the loss of full-time starter Nate Ness, this safety duo has a ton of promise. Outside of first year player Marcus Benjamin, everyone in this secondary is a letterman, which ultimately means another solid outing in this pass-happy league.


DT Earl Mitchell (PHOTO CREDIT: UA athletics)


Returning Starters/
Key Players
DE Brooks Reed-Jr (6-3, 255) Apaiata Tuihalamaka-So (6-3, 245)
NT Donald Horton-Sr (6-0, 275) Kaniela Tuipulotu-Jr (6-2, 300)
DT Earl Mitchell-Sr (6-2, 295) Lolomana Mikaele-Jr (6-2, 305)
Jonathan Hollins-Jr (6-3, 295) (JUCO)
DE Ricky Elmore-Jr (6-5, 250) D'Aundre Reed-Jr (6-4, 248)
SLB Sterling Lewis-Sr (5-11, 225) Corey Hall-Sr (5-10, 201)
MLB Vuna Tuihalamaka-Sr (6-2, 230) R.J. Young-RFr (5-11, 225)
WLB Xavier Kelley-Sr (5-11, 215) Orlando Vargas-So (5-11, 220)
CB Trevin Wade-So (5-11, 182) Marcus Benjamin-Jr (6-0, 185)
CB Devin Ross-Sr (5-11, 175) Mike Turner-Jr (5-11, 175)
SS Robert Golden-So (5-11, 190) Joe Perkins-Jr (6-2, 198)
FS Cam Nelson-Jr (6-1, 202) Brandon Tatum-Sr (6-1, 210)
P Keenyn Crier-Jr (6-1, 200) ..




The name Zendejas obviously carries weight in the kicking world. Alex Zendejas now takes over as the full-time kicker after covering mop-up duty on extra points. His uncle Max, who still continues to work with Alex, is the current U of A career-scoring leader, and uncles Luis and Tony all had major stints in the NFL. Incumbent Alex has spent the last two years being the understudy of departed Groza Award semifinalist Jason Bondzio, so the pressure is on for this youngster who has yet to attempt a collegiate field goal. Punter Keenyn Crier finished as a First Team All-Pac Ten honoree as a freshman (’07). He is now a Ray Guy Award candidate. Ergo, it's safe to say the special teams kicking departments appear to be well stocked. The Cats have some good ones in the return game too. Replacing a former All-American like Mike Thomas is difficult, but RB Keola Antolin caught more than half of the kickoffs last fall so the experience level here is sufficient. Fans have been extremely high on WR William "Bug" Wright this off-season. Bug’s electric offensive skills need to translate when returning punts; he currently appears to be the first option.