Every Arizona fan remembers the days of Ka’Deem Carey with nostalgia. During the 2012 and 2013 seasons, the running back carried the ball for over 100 yards in all but three games without missing a single game due to injury or fatigue. The closest yardage any other running back achieved during that time frame was 67 yards a game. His dominance on the field earned him the title of two-time All-American while securing him the spot as top of the pack in the University of Arizona’s career yardage department. To put it mildly, Ka’Deem Carey was one of the most beloved players in Wildcats history.
The Running Backs
Since Carey’s reign, however, Arizona has seen three running backs with over a hundred yards a game each. Nick Wilson has been an undeniable asset since Carey’s departure. As a freshman, Nick Wilson averaged 5.8 yards a carry, rushing for 1,375 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2014 only to be plagued by injuries the following year. Terris Jones-Grigsby illuminated the depth of the WildCats’ running game by achieving 567 yards and three touchdowns on 121 carries. Senior Jared Baker picked up the slack in 2015 with the bulk of the carries. Baker ran for 798 yards and nine touchdowns on 131 carries.
What does this mean for Arizona’s running game in the 2016-2017 season? Wilson is likely to remain on the sidelines for some time. With no senior running back on the roster, who will pick up the slack? Baker and Jones-Grigsby are no longer options, and Jonathan Haden has transferred to another program. Luckily, depth is not an issue for the team.
Louisiana native Orlando Bradford is likely to play a big role. Wildcats’ fans will remember him for his appearance in the New Mexico Bowl where he had 11 carries for 61 yards. Particularly impressive was the final drive of the game where Bradford took eight carries for 28 yards and three first downs cementing Arizona’s victory and establishing Bradford as a force to keep an eye on.
Junior Zach Green is another legitimate powerhouse expected to get his fair share of the carries, along with freshman J.J. Taylor. While on the smaller size, Taylor was a dominant force in high school leaving Arizona eager to see his potential blossom. Nathan Tilford’s 200 pound presence on the field is likely to get his share of the carries, however, rumor has it, he is considering following Haden’s lead and transferring out of the system.
The Arizona Wildcats have a history of being a virtual breeding ground for quality running backs. The 2016-2017 season should be no exception. Nick Wilson is likely to be the number one guy. If injuries continue to plague him, Bradford is likely to be the next in line for the job given his ability to not shy away from hard contact. Other options include the aforementioned Zach Green and J.J. Taylor. Branden Leon and Nathan Tilford are also reasonable contenders if Tilford ultimately decides to stay with school. Leon actually had one of the best springs of the bunch. In fact, there could be as many as ten backs on the team, factoring in transfers and injuries.
Many online sports betting sites are sharing the sentiments of sports fans everywhere in regards to what the Wildcats’ backfield will encompass. Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez is the first coach in team history to lead the Wildcats to four consecutive bowl games. He is committed to bringing depth to the team, and the running game is no exception.
Tags: Arizona Wildcats, Ka'Deem Carey, Nick Wilson, Terris Jones-Grigsby