USC Football Schedule Preview 2015: Scouting Arizona


USC football begins the tough November slate with last year’s Pac-12 South champions, the Arizona Wildcats.

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Rich Rodriguez guided his Wildcats to the conference championship game in 2014, where they were dominated by Oregon. After making great strides towards a 10-4 record, Arizona’s final loss in the Pac-12 and a defeat to Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl proved there is still work to be done in Tuscon.

Here’s an early look at USC’s ninth opponent of the year:


Anu Solomon’s freshman season was quite impressive for such a young player. Now, the pressure will only mount for the now-sophomore to produce at even greater levels.

Despite racking up 3,793 yards passing and 291 yards rushing, Solomon’s passer rating left plenty to be desired. His mark was above only Sean Mannion’s among regular quarterbacks in the conference. At 28 touchdowns to 9 interceptions, the scoring to turnover ratio was not necessarily the problem. Instead, his Pac-12 worst 58% completion rating was.

Dec 5, 2014; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Arizona Wildcats quarterback Anu Solomon (12) throws a pass against the Oregon Ducks in the Pac-12 Championship at Levi

In year two, continued maturation as a quarterback will be key towards matching and exceeding last year’s success.

Back to help Solomon on offense is the majority of his receiving targets from 2014. Only Austin Hill departs, leaving Cayleb Jones and Samajie Grant to build on excellent sophomore seasons as Arizona’s top receivers.

Leading rusher Nick Wilson also returns after a stellar freshman campaign. Though overshadowed by the break out year of Oregon’s freshman rusher Royce Freeman, Wilson’s first year was as good at they come with 1,375 yards and 16 touchdowns.

Arizona’s transitional troubles begin on the offensive line, where they lose three starters. Replacing both tackles is never a great way to start the year but the Wildcats are boosted by Cal transfer Freddie Tagaloa, who faces huge expectations to deliver at left tackle in 2014.

At right tackle, Lene Maiava has starting experience at both guard positions but looks like the man to replace Fabbians Ebbele.

The task of finding someone to fill the place of All-Pac-12 second team center Steven Gurrola looms large. As it stands, the battle is between two former walk-ons — Carter Wood and Zach Hemmila.


The Wildcats lost more numbers on defense than they did offense, but they return the most important piece — linebacker Scooby Wright.

Wright is the unquestioned focal point of the defense. It will be difficult to match the heights of 2014 as an individual, considering he earned the triple crown of defensive trophies with the Nagurski, Lombardi and Bednarik Awards now in his closet. Still, his junior season could certainly yield bigger and better things for the Arizona defense as a whole.

Last year, the Wildcats were tenth in the conference in yards conceded per game and gave up 28 points on average to their opponents.

Nov 28, 2014; Tucson, AZ, USA; Arizona State Sun Devils quarterback Mike Bercovici (2) is tackled by Arizona Wildcats linebacker Scooby Wright III (33) in the fourth quarter during the 88th annual territorial cup at Arizona Stadium. The Wildcats defeated the Sun Devils 42-35 to win the Pac-12 south title. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Defensive end Reggie Gilbert’s successful petitioning of the NCAA for a fifth year should go a long way towards helping Arizona tighten up the defense.

However, there are major holes to fill at other positions.

Four of Arizona’s top six tacklers from last year have graduated, including safeties Jared Tevis, Jourdon Grandon and hybrid linebacker Tre’Mayne Bondurant.

Senior Jamar Allah looks set to take Grandon’s place at free safety, while redshirt junior Tellas Jones could take over for Tevis at the Bandit position after providing back up support to Will Parks at the Spur last season.

At cornerback, Jonathan McKnight’s departure means sophomore Cam Denson, who was McKnight’s understudy in 2014, will step up to the plate.

Though redshirt sophomore Jarvis McCall started much of 2014 at the other cornerback spot, wide reciver-turned-defensive back DaVonte Neal could present a challenge this fall.

Special Teams:

Senior punter Drew Riggleman earned second team All-Pac-12 honors last year with an average of 46 yards on his kicks. His return, along with senior kicker Casey Skowron, means the Wildcats will experience no turnover on special teams this season.

Even in the return game, the whole band will be back together. Neal handled punt returns last year and despite the position change this spring he is expected to maintain that role.

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On kickoffs, sophomore Tyrell Johnson and Grant are the top men once again.

Threat Level: High

Despite USC’s victory over them in 2014, the Wildcats won the Pac-12 South with a youth-filled team and should only come back stronger in 2015.

Anu Solomon’s progress will dictate just how high Arizona can climb, but there is enough talent available on offense for there to be danger even if he remains at his freshman levels.

Defensively, Scooby Wright is the premiere defender in the league but Arizona’s defense will remain a liability until his teammates provide greater support.

In short, the match up between the Trojans and the Wildcats was a tight one last year and should come down to fine margins again this year.