Hill injury leaves Arizona with WR void

Optimism is an important part of the sporting experience. From fans to coaches to players, the vast majority espouse great hopes in advance of every season, even when bad things happen that seem to poleax those hopes.

A player or coach is never going to say, "We're doomed," when a star player gets hurt. It's "Next man in." As it should be. No one likes a whiner.

And woe to the sportswriter who, armed with a laptop, acts as the killjoy.

Take Arizona. It already was searching for a replacement for highly productive quarterback Matt Scott when, on the last week of spring practices, star receiver Austin Hill went down with a knee injury.

No worries, said fellow receiver David Richards.

"We have a lot of other weapons," Richards said. "I don't think we'll really lose a step. I don't think it will hurt us that bad even though he was a great receiver."

Richards added he plans to step up his game and help fill the void. That's good because he's now the Wildcats leading returning wide receiver after catching 29 passes for 298 yards with three TDs last year.

That, of course, is long way from the 81 passes for 1,364 yards with 11 scores Hill contributed as a sophomore. But we are not here to party poop. We are here to offer hope.

Hill's injury and the departure of second-leading receiver Dan Buckner leave a void without a doubt. Whoever wins the quarterback job won't have an obvious go-to option. On the positive side, he also won't be fixated on one guy, as, say, USC was last year with Marqise Lee.

The Wildcats have solid experience coming back at receiver. Richards is the leader of four wide outs who caught at least 19 passes last year, a crew that includes Tyler Slavin, Johnny Jackson and Garic Wharton. The imposing Terrence Miller also returns after receiving a medical hardship year from the NCAA. The 6-foot-4, 234 pounder had 13 receptions in the first four games before he got hurt.

Finally, there's a trio of promising redshirt freshmen -- Trey Griffey, Clive Georges and Jarrell Bennett -- who hinted this spring they are ready to help.

Let's just say there are plenty of teams in the country and even the Pac-12 that would trade their receivers for Arizona's, including rival Arizona State, which is essentially crossing its fingers over incoming players being ready to take over leading roles.

Hill's injury was a hit, but it didn't change the preeminent questions for the Wildcats: Quarterback and defense. Arizona has no idea who will be behind center, while the defensive question hangs on how much better 11 returning starters and some redshirt freshmen and newcomers can be compared to the overmatched group from 2012.

Richards, following the lead of his coaches, didn't reveal much about the QB competition, though B.J. Denker seemed to have the best spring, with USC transfer Jesse Scroggins sitting out and touted true freshman Anu Solomon arriving this summer.

"All the quarterbacks pretty much had a good spring," Richards said. "I think it will be a good camp with them all competing. The person that works the hardest and proves he wants to be the leader of this team will be the quarterback."

That same could be said of who will become that QB's top target.