UCLA defensive end Datone Jones — a projected third- or fourth-round draft choice will be a significant challenge for Arizona’s offensive line. Jones, a senior on the Chuck Bednarik Award watch list, is tied for 19th in the nation in tackles for loss per game (1.57). He had a career-best nine tackles at Arizona State last Saturday.”The muscle-bound Jones has the strength, athleticism and motor scouts are looking for,” NFLDraftScout.com analyst Rob Rang writes. “Considering the NFL’s willingness to gamble on talented defensive linemen, should Jones’ breakout senior campaign continue, he could wind up joining Utah’s Star Lotulelei as a top 50 candidate come April.”
It’s hard to believe that six Class of 2015 running backs rank higher than Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey in the NFLDraftScout.com’s rankings. One of them is former Auburn standout Michael Dyer, who has not played football since the Tigers’ NCAA title run in 2010. He has been dismissed from Auburn (school violation) and Arkansas State (speeding and drug possession charges). Carey (5-11 and 190 pounds) ranks third in the Pac-12 with 120.1 rushing yards per game. He has 13 touchdowns (12 rushing and one receiving) to rank second among all Pac-12 players and tied for 18th-most nationally in scoring. Carey has topped 100 yards rushing six times this season, just a year after the Wildcats broke 100 yards as a team only five times in 12 games in 2011.
UA SEASON RUSHING TOUCHDOWN RECORD
a-Arizona played only 10 games in 1954. b-Carey has played eight games and has at least four remaining.
Arizona has seen its fair share of running backs who could be playing on Sundays in a year or two — Stanford’s Stepfan Taylor (ranked No. 5 among Class of 2013 running backs by NFLDraftScout.com), Oklahoma State’s Joseph Randle (No. 6), USC’s Silas Redd (No.12) and Oregon’s Kenjon Barner (No. 15). Those four running backs have averaged 106 yards on 22 carries against the Wildcats. Only Taylor has rushed for a touchdown against Arizona, including the game-winner in overtime in Arizona’s 54-48 loss. The next significant challenge is UCLA’s Johnathan Franklin tonight. He has gained 1,042 yards on 156 carries. He ranks seventh nationally with 130.3 yards rushing per game. Rang questions Franklin’s size (5-11, 195) and overall ability at the next level. “He’s affectionately been nicknamed ‘Jetski’ by some on the team due to his ability to leave defenders in his wake,” Rang writes. “The catchy nickname is fun, but I have concerns about how well he’ll transition to the NFL. Franklin lacks the bulk of an NFL lead back so he’d likely have to make a roster as a third-down specialist.”
Austin Hill, ranked the No. 9 receiver prospect in the Class of 2015, is only a sophomore who can be one of the most accomplished receivers in Arizona history by the time he’s done. He caught 10 passes for a career-best 259 receiving yards (second-most in UA single-game history) last week against USC. Half of those catches went for 20 or more yards, including plays of 60 and 42 yards in the second half. Those plays both came on key third downs to set up touchdowns. The 60-yarder in the fourth quarter was the longest pass play of the season for Arizona and it dug the Wildcats out of a third-and-22 hole at their own 16. Hill’s 25.9 yards per reception set a new single-game record with a minimum of 10 catches, surpassing Dennis Northcutt’s 25.7 clip set on his 10-catch, 257-yard day against TCU on Sept. 5, 1999, in Fort Worth, Texas. It was UA’s ninth 200-yard game for a player, and the first since Bobby Wade had 222 at California in 2002.
The last time Arizona faced a talented tight end it was exposed defensively against Stanford. The Wildcats will face one of the best tight ends in the nation tonight in UCLA senior Joseph Fauria. Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez hopes to contain Fauria more than what the Wildcats showed against Stanford’s Levine Toilolo, who had five catches for 141 yards and a touchdown. Against the UA’s 3-5-3 defense, the tight end can break freely from the line and is often matched up in man-to-man coverage with UA linebackers. That puts extra pressure on the linebackers especially on play-action plays. Fauria, who played at Notre Dame as a freshman, is projected to be drafted in the fourth or fifth round by NFLDraftScout.com. He leads the Bruins with six touchdown receptions this season, including one last season.
LINKS OF NOTE FOR ARIZONA-UCLA GAME:
— UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley Jr. is one of a few sons of former Arizona athletes to play elsewhere
— Jim Thorpe Award winner Darryll Lewis’ 70-yard interception return for a touchdown enabled the Wildcats to beat UCLA 28-21 in 1990. That was one of three years in which the UA swept UCLA and USC in a season. The Wildcats go for No. 4 tonight.
— Anthony Gimino of TucsonCitizen.com offers his prediction of the UA-UCLA game
— Resilient Wildcats set for key game against UCLA — another Gimino special
Site publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner