The latest of our Pac-10 interviews is wit..."/> The latest of our Pac-10 interviews is wit..."/>

Checkin’ on the Pac: Arizona


The latest of our Pac-10 interviews is with Arizona Wildcats fan and founder of AZ Sports Matt Blake. He is also the co-founder of SoCal Sports Hub so he certainly deserves a lot of credit for his work at both sites. Once again, thanks to Matt for participating in this interview.

1. The Offense improved from 16.6 ppg to 28.0 ppg under former Texas Tech Offensive Coordinator Sonny Dykes. Will this trend continue in 2008?

The trend should definitely continue. Willie Tuitama brings experience and is coming off an injury free season. The offensive line brings back four starters, and at the very worst will stay at the same level as last season. Look for marginal offensive improvement, but with Sonny Dykes at the helm, the offense will continue to improve.

2. Can Willie Tuitama take the next step and become an elite quarterback?

Last year Willie was held on a tight leash. Coming off an injury prone 2006 season and just starting to learn Dyke’s system, Tuitama was clearly holding back or being held back. This year is his year, so as long as he can stay healthy and has adequate protection, he should improve, though we are unsure he will make it to that “elite” level.

3. Recently, Arizona has had some good running backs with Mike Bell and Chris Henry. Is Nicholas Grigsby the next great UA back?

The Cats have had some good running backs the past few years, yet have failed to actually deliver on the field. The problem has been the O-line. With four returning starters, run blocking should improve and that should allow Grigsby to prosper.

4. Mike Thomas had 1,038 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns last year. Is the best wideout in the Pac-10?

If he isn’t the best, he is the second best. Look for an even better year as both he and Tuitama have had time to fully adapt to Dyke’s offense.

5. How will the Wildcats replace defensive line starters Lionel Dotson, Louis Holmes, Yaniv Barnett, and Jason Parker?

The best thing that Stoops can do with the D-line is plug and play and see who steps up to the task. With lack of experience on the D-line, there is going to be a lot of rotation throughout the season. Stoops just has to find the right fit.

6. Linebacker Spencer Larson was not only the leading tackler, but also the leader of the defense. Who will take over his defensive leadership?

Ronnie Palmer, who was second to Larsen with 83 tackles will have to step up and become the leader of this defense. But really, it’s anyone’s game with so many Seniors leaving.

7. Antoine Cason was also a great kicker/punt returner in addition to being a great cornerback. Who will fill the void he leaves?

Watch out for Mike Thomas to step up and become the teams start kicker/punt returner. On the defensive end, look for Marquis Hundley and Devin Ross to fill that void. But the bottom line is that the secondary will not be as good as it has been in the past few seasons without Cason.

8. How hot is Mike Stoops’s seat right now?

This season is make or break for Stoops. At the beginning of last season a lot of fans and alum were calling for his head, but as usual, Stoops found a way to rally the Cats to a late season surge. However, late season surges will no longer be acceptable, Stoops has had ample time to get his players into this system and make an impact. This team needs to win consistently. If he doesn’t make a bowl game this year, he is toast.

9. Lastly, please look into your crystal ball. How will the Wildcats do this year?

The Wildcats finally have what looks to be an “easy” non-conference schedule this season, playing Idaho, Toledo and New Mexico. If they can win all three of those games, and go 4-5 against Pac-10 foes, they just might make a bowl with their 7-5 record.