Wildcats, Rebels set for desert rematch
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) Arizona had a prolonged battle for its starting quarterback job last season, one that lasted nearly until the first snap of the first game.
That worked out fairly well; B.J. Denker started the opener and stayed under center the rest of the season, leading the Wildcats to eight wins and a bowl victory.
Arizona has gone through another drawn-out quarterback competition this season.
This time, four players were involved and the decision was made a few days before the first game.
Now, it's time to see what the victor, Anu Solomon, can do.
The redshirt freshman beat out three others in a tight race and will start Arizona's season opener against UNLV on Friday night at Arizona Stadium.
''(I) thought he deserved the right to start the first game,'' Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said. ''I'm confident that Anu will play well and he will be the starter as long as he plays well and we win.''
That caveat, playing well and winning, will determine if Solomon follows the same route as Denker and remains the starter or if one of the other three will slide under center.
USC transfer Jesse Scroggins, LSU transfer Jarrard Randall and former Texas recruit Connor Brewer are all talented quarterbacks, so any one of them could potentially become the starter if Solomon falters. Even if he doesn't, Rodriguez has said the others could see action anyway.
''As I told the quarterbacks last night, it doesn't mean he plays the whole game or he'll be the starter the rest of the season,'' Rodriguez said. ''But I also don't want any quarterback to ever go in there and think, `As soon as I make a mistake, I'm coming out.' That's not going to be the case either.''
Here are a few things to watch when Arizona and UNLV open the season in the desert Friday night:
REBEL REBOUND: UNLV appears to be on the upswing after putting together its first winning season since 2000 a year ago. The Rebels won seven games last season and coach Bobby Hauck has repeatedly said this year's team is a good one. UNLV has 13 returning starters and some talented players on offense.
HILL RETURNS: Arizona receiver Austin Hill was expected to be among the best receivers in the country last season after being a semifinalist for the 2012 Biletnikoff Award. Those hopes were dashed when he tore his ACL in spring practice, wiping out his 2013 season. Healthy again, the senior is being picked as a potential All-America candidate and he anchors what could be one of the nation's best receiving corps.
DECKER'S DEBUT: Blake Decker will be returning to Arizona as a Division I starting quarterback. After a successful season at Scottsdale Community College, the junior was named UNLV's starter two weeks ago after a close race with junior Nick Sherry. He threw for over 4,200 yards and 47 touchdowns at Scottsdale CC and has a superb target to throw toward in Devante Davis, the top returning receiver in the Mountain West Conference.
RUNNING WILDCATS: The biggest hole Arizona had heading into this season was the one left by Ka'Deem Carey. He was a two-time All-American and left Arizona as the school's all-time leading rusher. Instead of trying to replace him with one player, Rodriguez will likely go with several. Former walk-on Terris Jones-Grigsby is listed as the starter, but UNLV transfer Adonis Smith and freshman Nick Wilson could get plenty of snaps, too.
DESERT REMATCH: Arizona and UNLV will be meeting for the second straight season. The last one didn't go so well for UNLV. Unable to keep up with Arizona's speed and up-tempo offense, the Rebels fell behind 39 points by halftime and lost 58-13 in Las Vegas. Arizona is a 24-point favorite at home in the rematch.