We're continuing our Pac-12 triplet rankings with No. 7 Arizona. Here are the parameters: We’ve selected a trio of skill players from each team in the conference.
The rules: Each player comes from a different position group, so the offensive version of this series features a quarterback running back and wide receiver. We then ranked each program’s troika against the others in the Pac-12, and we’ll be unveiling and writing about each in reverse countdown order. We continue with the No. 7 Arizona Wildcats.
QB Anu Solomon
Coaches insist Solomon’s decline in 2015 was the result of his frustration over various injuries and an inability to stay on the field -- not a sophomore slump or crisis of confidence. We know what Solomon is capable of when he’s healthy and hitting on all cylinders. In two seasons, he’s thrown 48 touchdowns to just 14 interceptions. Had he stayed healthy last year, you could project his numbers and they’d be better than his 2014 stats. That said, the staff is still going to make him work for it, because Brandon Dawkins made enough plays in the spring to keep things interesting. More than likely Solomon will win and hold his job. And if he can stay healthy, he has all of the tools to successfully drive the offense.
RB Nick Wilson
Like his quarterback, Wilson had a fantastic 2014 only to have his 2015 slowed by injuries. And by “slowed,” we mean he didn’t have the same numbers as his freshman year. Because 725 yards and eight touchdowns during an injury-plagued season is still pretty darn good. Though it’s not the 1,375 yards and 16 touchdowns he had a year before. Michael Lev of the Daily Star had an interesting piece a couple of months ago about Wilson’s workload. When he’s healthy, he’s a special back who probably doesn’t get as much recognition in a league with Christian McCaffrey and Royce Freeman. He certainly has the potential to put up 1,500-plus yards.
WR Nate Phillips
Phillips returns as the third-leading receiver from last season and top returner following the departure of Cayleb Jones and Johnny Jackson. He’s a solid contributor from the slot position, hauling in 44 catches for 564 yards and four touchdowns. He’ll be flanked by Samajie Grant, who snatched 31 balls for 301 yards and a pair of touchdowns. But let’s not sleep on Trey Griffey, either. He had only 11 catches for 284 yards and a touchdown last year, yet the coaching staff is confident he’s due for a breakout season. This should again be a solid receiving corps.
Fun fact: With an injured Solomon and Wilson, Arizona still scored more touchdowns in 2015 (60) than any other year of the Rich Rodriguez era. Since joining the league in 2012, his offenses have always ranked in the top half of the league -- including last year, when the Wildcats scored 37.4 points per game, which ranked fourth. Scoring points has never been much of a problem. The scheme is sound and it works. And when everyone is healthy, it’s outstanding. When everyone isn’t, it’s still pretty darn good. Rodriguez has managed to recruit good skill players and put them into position to put up very solid statistical numbers. If they can keep the offensive backfield healthy, there’s no reason to believe the offense won’t continue to be among the league’s elite.