As spring practice continues across the Pac-12, position battles rage. Jobs can still be earned during training camp in August, but this time of year provides prime opportunity to make a move and potentially solidify areas of uncertainty on the roster. We’re looking at which position battles are most critical across the league this offseason, continuing with the Arizona Wildcats.
1. Linebacker: It's no secret that all-everything LB Scooby Wright is gone, and the preview of the Wildcats defense without Wright last fall wasn't too pleasing -- see Rich Rodriguez firing his entire defensive staff. What is a secret is how the Wildcats plan to line up in 2016 under new coordinator Marcel Yates. We are fairly certain that DeAndre' Miller and Paul Magloire Jr. are going to be in the thick of things, with Miller being a potential pass-rushing threat and Magloire acting as a LB/safety hybrid. After that, things are fairly fluid, in large part due to injury histories. Can Cody Ippolito stay healthy? Is Derrick Turituri going to be ready to play in 2016? What about Michael Barton, Jake Matthews, Carrington Vaughn and early enrollee Kahi Neves? With a new scheme and new coaching staff, there are opportunities to get shuffled into a starting job out of nowhere -- or to get lost in the shuffle.
2. Kicker/punter: The Wildcats are replacing second-team All-Pac-12 punter Drew Riggleman and honorable mention All-Conference kicker Casey Skowron, and during spring practices the general feeling was that the Wildcats really wish they didn't have to replace either. While sophomore Josh Pollack, Skowron's backup last year, is the favorite to win the kicking job, punter remains wide open. One of the issues, in fact, is that Pollack might be the team's best punter, but coaches don't want him to do both jobs. Wildcats coaches might be shaking the bushes to see if they can add a punter to the 2016 roster.
3. Quarterback: This is an interesting one. We thought strongly about making this center, where Cayman Bundage needs to be replaced, and that ultimately may prove a more legitimate battle. But just this week, coach Rich Rodriguez -- weeks after spring practices ended -- reiterated that he views two-year starter Anu Solomon as being in a real competition with sophomore Brandon Dawkins. Said Rich Rod, "I think we’ll have a great competition between him and Brandon Dawkins to be the starter. That may be ongoing throughout the season." So there you have it. Does it strain credulity a bit to believe that Solomon, a fairly accomplished two-year starter who led the Wildcats to the Pac-12 South title in 2014, is going to lose his spot? A bit, but you never know.