Continuing the look at UCLA’s 2016 schedule, here is a breakdown of the Bruins’ fourth opponent, Arizona.
UCLA vs. Arizona
Saturday, Oct. 1 | Rose Bowl
2015 in review
In one year, Arizona (7-6 overall, 3-6 Pac-12 in 2015) went from Pac-12 South champions to a lowly fifth place, only above Colorado. The Bruins gave up a season-high 353 rushing yards to Arizona last year, but still came away with the win on Sept. 26 because Arizona’s defense was even worse than UCLA’s. The Wildcats gave up six (!) rushing touchdowns during that game and two more through the air while the Bruins ran away with a comfortable 56-30 win. Arizona was 10th in the conference in yardage and points allowed last year and revamped the entire defensive coaching staff.
— New staff, new results? Head coach Rich Rodriguez said he hired new defensive coordinator Marcel Yates based largely on his attitude. Outside of Yates’ X’s and O’s, Rodriguez said at Pac-12 Media Days he “liked the personality of the defense” that the former Boise State defensive coordinator offered. The Wildcats likely need more than just a strong personality in their new coordinator to improve on defense, but an injection of fresh blood is a good start.
— Incumbent QB vs. challenger Arizona is one of the few teams in the Pac-12 with a returning starter at quarterback, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the team is free from QB drama. Anu Solomon led the Wildcats to a Pac-12 South crown as a redshirt freshman in 2014, but has hampered by injuries last year, which opened the door for Brandon Dawkins. Solomon seems to be the safer choice for start due to his experience, but Rodriguez wants to keep the competition strong to motivate his upperclassman.
— Injury bug Injuries spread like wild fire in Arizona apparently. The team’s best linebacker Scooby Wright III played only three games last year. Five different players started at middle linebacker. Each of the three players to watch below struggled with injuries last year. The injuries tested Arizona’s depth and the Wildcats failed.
Arizona players to watch
— RB Nick Wilson Wilson broke out as a freshman in 2014 with 1,375 rushing yards, but missed four games as a sophomore due to injury and settled for only 729 yards on the ground. If he can stay healthy, he will provide the Arizona offense a much-needed playmaker.
— LB DeAndre’ Miller The linebacker had eight tackles for loss and two sacks last year. Another injury-prone player, he missed two games in 2015 and only played three games in 2014 after suffering a season-ending shoulder injury. He could be a potential replacement for Wright as the top linebacker if he’s able to stay on the field.
— QB Anu Solomon Once the Arizona quarterback of the future Solomon is now fighting for to keep his starting job. In 11 games last season, he passed for 2,667 yards and 20 touchdowns. His potential is clear, but whether he can stay healthy is not.
Arizona in GIF form
2016 UCLA schedule
Sat., Sept. 3: UCLA at Texas A&M — 12:30 p.m., CBS
Sat., Sept. 10: UNLV at UCLA — 5 p.m., Pac-12 Networks
Sat., Sept. 17: UCLA at BYU — 7:15 p.m., ESPN or ESPN2
Sat., Sept. 24: Stanford at UCLA
Sat., Oct. 1: Arizona at UCLA
Sat., Oct. 8: UCLA at Arizona State
Sat., Oct. 15: UCLA at Washington State
Sat., Oct 22: Utah at UCLA
Sat., Oct. 28: BYE
Thurs., Nov. 3: UCLA at Colorado — 6 p.m., FOX Sports 1
Sat., Nov. 12: Oregon State at UCLA
Sat., Nov. 19: USC at UCLA
Sat., Nov. 26: UCLA at California
Home games in bold, all times in Pacific Time