TUCSON, ARIZ. (AP) - Arizona coach Mike Stoops has said the Wildcats might have to throw the ball 50 times a game this season.
With the offensive talent they have, the Wildcats might be able to get away with it.
Still, Arizona can’t pass all the time. The Wildcats, who open the season on Saturday against Northern Arizona, will need some balance to give the passing game a chance.
“If people are going to be able to take some of our receivers out of the game, obviously we’ve got to be able to run the football,” Stoops said. “Certainly, (we) want to use Juron (Criner) as a decoy a lot and try to be able to get him in a position where he demands a lot of coverage and we’re able to use that to our advantage.”
Arizona has a potent passing game. Nick Foles is one of the most prolific quarterbacks in the country and the wide receivers, led by Criner, are also among the nation’s best.
As for the running game, Arizona returns its top rusher from 2010 _ senior Keola Antolin, who ran for 668 yards and seven touchdowns.
Beyond Antolin, the Wildcats will look to young, less experienced players. Nic Grigsby, the No. 2 rusher last year, is trying to make the Miami Dolphins and backup Greg Nwoko tore his ACL in March.
Arizona also can turn to junior Taimi Tutogi, a 6-foot-1, 258-pound halfback.
Heading into the first season of the new Pac-12, the Wildcats will be looking to get better on the ground this season.
While Arizona led the conference in passing at 307.7 yards per game in 2010, it ranked eighth in rushing at 131.7 yards en route to a 7-6 finish.
“I really like what Ka’Deem and Keola bring us,” Stoops said. “Those are two very instinctive running backs, very powerful, hit the holes well. Taimi has shown a good knack for running the football back there, getting short yardage and goal-line sets.”
Jenkins, who has had a sprained ankle, and Butler could step into bigger roles.
Last season, Butler played in one game and rushed for 14 yards while Jenkins gained 26 yards on eight carries.
“I’ve grown a lot, mentally, physically, just all around,” Jenkins said. “The game has slowed down a lot more. I plan to keep working hard and perfecting my craft and hopefully contributing to the team as much as I can.”
With his size and speed, Carey has impressed his coaches, though it’s unclear what his role will be. After an all-state career at Canyon del Oro High School in Arizona, Carey is still learning pass protection and picking up blitzes.
“He has the physical maturity that you like in a back,” Stoops said. “Now, it’s the mental maturity to understand the details that are important to be really successful.”
Carey rushed for 69 yards in Arizona’s scrimmage and is expected to help out with kickoff returns.
But it won’t just be running the ball. Running backs coach Garret Chachere said his players will have to be good at picking up blitzes and pass protecting to give Foles a chance to make plays.
“When we get our chances, if we get 25 chances to run the ball, make the most of them,” Chachere said. “Twenty to 25 carries by the running backs is enough to make an impact on the game.”