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Opponent Preview: Arizona Offense

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 06 Cal at Arizona Photo by Christopher Hook/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Maybe they’re unlucky. Maybe they just need some time for Jedd Fisch to find his footing as a first-time head coach. Maybe they’re just bad. Maybe there’s a bigger problem at hand. However you look at it, the Arizona Wildcats are struggling, in particular on the offensive side of the ball, where a flurry of injuries has left the Cats thinner and more fragile than paper.

Already down two quarterbacks for the season after freshman Gunner Cruz (6’5”, 227 lbs), and sophomore Jordan McCloud (6’0”, 200 lbs) suffered separate injuries, redshirt freshman Will Plummer is the expected starter come Saturday at noon, however, Fisch has suggested a lingering shoulder problem has the potential to keep the conference’s statistically worst starting quarterback sidelined.

With a 55.6% completion rate, two touchdowns, seven interceptions, and ten sacks under his belt, Plummer ranks dead last among his peers in the PAC-12 with a QBR of 30.0. While he’s demonstrated tremendous resiliency while fighting through a litany of injuries ranging from hand lacerations and bum shoulders, the youngster has been thrown to the wolves and made the best of a bad situation. If Plummer is unable to go this week, sophomore Luke Ashworth (6’2”, 208 lbs) would assume the role of starting QB. Ashworth threw his first collegiate pass last week against Cal, which resulted in an interception before Plummer made his return on the next drive. Ashworth will be the only other QB to dress this week for the Wildcats, and Fisch has suggested if Ashworth is thrown in, several wildcat packages may be employed.

Sophomore running back Michael Wiley (5’11”, 207 lbs) joined fellow sophomore Jamarye Joiner (WR, 6’1”, 208 lbs) in taking snaps behind center off and on last week out of the wildcat, with Wiley appearing to be the most effective option, averaging 3.1 yards overall against Cal with a TD. Sophomore Drake Anderson (5’11”, 194) currently leads Arizona in rushing yards with 265 and could easily find himself in a modified role this weekend as well.

Assuming the Wildcats will be able to throw the ball consistently against the Utes, the defense will need to account for junior wide receiver Stanley Berryhill III, who has singlehandedly kept the Arizona offense afloat during this tumultuous season. Reeling in a whopping 69 receptions for 543 yards and a TD, Berryhill has accounted for 32.4% of all receptions, and 28.03% of all receiving yards for the Wildcats this season while amassing an additional 121 yards on the grounds through 18 rushing attempts, meaning the veteran has accounted for 20.9% of all offensive production for his team in 2021, a mighty impressive workload.

While Utah’s defense isn’t sitting near the top of the PAC-12’s best, Mika Tafua, Devin Lloyd and the rest of the Utah defense should have little problem keeping this Arizona offense from getting too comfortable.