The Arizona Wildcats are 3-0, but you could say they’ve already played four games.
There was NAU, UNLV, UTSA and the blame game — as in who’s to blame for the lack of a passing attack.
The popular choice seems to be quarterback B.J. Denker.
The senior’s numbers are hardly eye-popping. He’s 31 for 55 for 326 yards in three games with two touchdowns and no interceptions. His longest completion was a 31-yard pass to Garic Wharton in the season opener.
But are his receivers doing enough — especially with Pac-12 play beginning this week at Washington — to help the first-year starter?
“They’re getting better; particularly the young guys,” said UA coach Rich Rodriguez during his weekly news conference Monday. “What we need to do is get the seniors and upperclassmen like Garic Wharton and Terrence Miller and those guys going. We know they’re good players and proven through the games. They have to have big games for us.
“They’re going to get challenged and we’re seeing more and more teams play us in a one-on-one coverage out on the perimeter, so we have to see if we can win some of those battles.”
Starting with the “young guys” it seems like the Wildcats have gotten decent production from a couple of freshmen. Samajie Grant has six catches for 60 yards and a score, and Nate Phillips has four for 40. In other words, two true freshman have accounted for almost nearly a third of Denker’s completions.
“You want to recruit guys who can come in and make your team better the minute they step on campus,” Rodriguez said. “Some take some time for development and strength. Some can do it right away.”
Phillips and Grant have seemed to do it right away.
But then there’s the curious case of Miller.
The senior was granted a medical redshirt last season after playing in four games and was expected to be a big part of the UA’s offense this season. He was the team’s offensive representative at Pac-12 media day in Los Angeles in July. With Austin Hill and David Richards both sidelined with injuries, it seemed like Miller would be Denker’s go-to guy.
But the Moreno Valley, Calif., native has just two catches for 20 yards so far.
Wharton leads the team with seven catches for 109 yards, but Rodriguez would like his production and Miller’s to be higher.
Denker thinks it’s coming, but he has no plans on forcing anything.
“Most of the reason the numbers weren’t (big) is because we were running the ball so well,” the quarterback said. “It’s not like I don’t know what my receivers are going to do. It’s not anything like that. It’s just being young and not really having to throw the ball every single down. We’ve been working on (chemistry) since the season started and definitely in the bye week. I think it’s getting better. And as the season progresses, I think you’ll see it on the field.”
Added senior running back Daniel Jenkins: “I think the receivers, the offensive line, the running back group, we’re all on the same page. We just have to work as a collective group. It’s going to be interesting how we perform this game.”
Richards, who hasn’t played in a game yet this season recovering from offseason foot surgery, is iffy for Saturday’s game in Seattle.
Rodriguez said the wide receiver “did more than he had done” in Sunday night’s practice, but his status is still up in the air.
“What David Richards does on Tuesday and Wednesday’s practice will determine whether or not he plays Saturday,” Rodriguez said.
Richards played in 12 of the UA’s 13 games last season and had 29 catches for 298 yards and three touchdowns.
Rodriguez does expect to have junior free safety Jourdon Grandon on Saturday. Grandon exited Arizona’s win over UTSA game early with an apparent head injury but practiced on Sunday, and Rodriguez said Monday, “Jourdon will be fine.”
Depth chart doings
The UA made a few minor adjustments to its depth chart prior to Pac-12 play. None of the moves were out of the ordinary.
Junior quarterback Jesse Scroggins had been listed as the third quarterback for the first month, but he now has some company in sophomore Nick Isham. The two have an “or” in between their two names. Denker is obviously still the starter, with Javelle Allen as his backup.
Rodriguez said Monday that Denker and Allen “have separated themselves over the last month or so.” Scroggins didn’t dress against UTSA, which Rodriguez later classified as both a coaches’ decision and a discipline issue.
The other changes to the depth chart came on the offensive line.
None of the starters have changed, but Salpointe Catholic product Jacob Arzouman is now listed as the backup to Fabbians Ebbele at right tackle. T.D. Gross, who had been the backup at that spot, is now listed as the backup at left tackle. Faitele Faafoi, who was the backup left tackle previously, is no longer on the two-deep.
Senior Eric Bender-Ramsay is the new backup at left guard. Junior Trent Spurgeon had occupied that spot.
There were no changes on defense.