Scouting Arizona vs UNLV

If you are without the services of a DVR, you probably missed out on scouting Arizona before they travel to the Alamodome on Thursday. The Wildcats throttled UNLV 58-13 while breaking a couple school records including most total yards of offense (787) and most passing yards for a freshman (425) as freshman gunslinger Anu Solomon torched UNLV’s secondary all night. By all statistical means, the Wildcats look to be an imposing opponent for the Roadrunners to open their home schedule with. Why does Vegas only favor Arizona by a touchdown? Bossman Don and I sat down and gobbled up recordings of the game, exchanging notes afterwards. Let’s see what hints the game film from Arizona’s beatdown of UNLV can give us.

On the defense:

Arizona officially lines up in a 3-3-5 but their tendency to bring a safety down into the box makes it more of a de facto 3-4-4. Their linebackers creep up very close to the line of scrimmage in the hopes of making the opposing offensive line scramble to decide who to block as the ball is snapped. The Wildcats mostly employed man-to-man coverage on the outside with little help overtop from the safeties. Arizona was able to skate by with their safeties playing close to the line since UNLV failed to move the ball vertically– something that UTSA struggled with against Houston. Arizona has even more speed at cornerback than Houston so UTSA will have to get creative and pay meticulous detail to their mechanics to create separation on their routes.

Having that extra safety down low stifled UNLV’s run game and helped Arizona to shut down any horizontal plays. While UNLV struggled to gain yards running outside they were able to pound it up the middle a few times. I came away very unimpressed by Arizona’s defensive line. They’re not a burly bunch but they are very quick and athletic, preferring to disrupt plays through stunts and by following the motion of the play. When the defensive line starts swarming to the playside, the backside linebacker usually scrapes down the backside through the C gap. Arizona’s three down linemen really struggled to create a pass rush, causing Arizona to blitz lots and lots of linebackers. Peculiarly, UNLV never really capitalized on this. If UTSA executes their offense they should be able to pick up some huge gains by attacking the middle of the field and swinging out to the running back on blitzes.

On the offense:

Arizona only ran two or three different running plays– most frequently a zone read option and a downhill tailback dive. I wouldn’t say that the Wildcats had consistent success running the ball but they broke off a few big ones and were able to thrive off of play action in the second half. I can’t remember a team ever effectively running the read option on UTSA’s disciplined and athletic defensive line so I think the Roadrunners will have a lot of success bottling up Arizona’s ground game. All-American running back Ka’Deem Carey is now in the NFL, allowing Terris Jones-Grigsby to take over at the running back position. Jones-Grigsby isn’t anywhere close to the standout athlete that Carey was but he’s still a solid running back that is hard to bring down. UTSA will need to wrap up and gang tackle to ensure that the 5’7”, 195 pound bowling ball can’t escape open field tackles as he did against UNLV. Arm tacklers need not apply.

What really stands out on this offense is the depth and talent of the wide receiver unit. I came away most impressed with 6’3” Austin Hill. Physical and imposing, Hill is a gritty possession type that also has the speed to take catches to the house. A redshirt sophomore, Trey Griffey is following in Hill’s tracks to leave a mark on the Arizona program. Notre Dame transfer Davonte’ Neal handles the inside where he brings game-changing speed. UTSA was able to handle Deontay Greenberry and the rest of the Houston wide receivers but athlete-for-athlete, Arizona is far superior. After watching Arizona on film, I understand why 6’3” UTSA cornerback Trevor Baker was listed on the two-deep. UTSA would be wise to match Baker and Okotcha with Hill and Griffey while having N’Keal Bailey and Stanley Dye shadow Neal in the slot. UTSA’s prospects of matching up with Arizona’s receivers are daunting so the defensive line will need to terrorize redshirt freshman quarterback Anu Solomon as extensively as they did Houston’s John O’Korn.

On Anu Solomon:

Make no mistake, the kid can play. A four-time state high school champion in Nevada, Solomon has an intangible coolness and leadership well beyond his years. With silky mechanics and a quick, light release, Solomon throws a pretty ball. As is to be expected from a freshman, Solomon still shows some signs of inconsistency in his delivery and unfamiliarity with his receivers. Solomon was money from short and mid range but overshot at least five receivers that were open down field, a sign of over-excitement. UNLV didn’t have much pass pressure reach Solomon but when it did he calmly avoided the rushers while keeping his eyes downfield to find open receivers. On one occasion, a defensive tackle came through the A gap towards Solomon but he successfully booted out behind the protection of his right tackle , finding a receiver for a short gain. Later in the game Solomon’s pocket collapsed, causing him to scramble forward. Solomon stayed behind the line of scrimmage and hit a receiver for a first down. The promising freshmen throws extremely well on the run and seemed more at ease after he had escaped the pocket. Solomon never threw into double coverage or tried to fit the ball through too tight of a window. A lot of the credit for that should go to Rich Rodriguez who had a perfect game plan for Solomon. The hope for UTSA is that Solomon will panic whenever things don’t go his way for the first time and that 30,000+ screaming Roadrunner fans will rattle the young athlete. I think this is how the game will be decided– can UTSA put the heat on Solomon and cause him to commit a few turnovers?

Stray thoughts:

  • Redshirt freshman cornerback Jarvis McCall was exposed by UNLV. The Floridian has good size and speed but is lacking in strength and physicality. I noticed him struggle to get off of blocks and allow UNLV receivers to add yards after the catch by putting their head down and fighting forward.
  • UNLV didn’t do much right on offense but they had a very nice jet sweep early in the game that must have excited UTSA coaches once they saw the film. The jet sweep is a big weapon for UTSA so if it’s open against Arizona then the Roadrunners might get some easy offense by handing the ball off to Aaron Grubb or Kam Jones.
  • UTSA really needs to be well conditioned. Arizona runs their offense at an absurd tempo and it really took its toll on UNLV in the third quarter. On one touchdown drive I counted seven different UNLV defenders looking gassed with hands on their hips. UTSA is deep at practically every position on defense which should help to prevent extreme fatigue.
  • True freshman Nick Wilson is a wildcard at running back. A slasher that took a simple read option to the house for an 85 yard touchdown, Wilson has top line speed and solid vision. I can guarantee that Wilson will see more playing time against UTSA.
  • Redshirt freshman Jacob Alsadek looks to be the weak link among the offensive line as the other four linemen are returning starters. Price and Mabry should really wreck Alsadek. His size (6’7”, 298 pounds) made him a top 300 recruit in high school but Alsadek wasn’t blocking 300 pound men in high school. I saw him get beat regularly against UNLV. He’s an athletic guy that’s a good fit for Zona’s zone blocking scheme but he still has bad technical habits from high school. If Alsadek stands up tall as he did against UNLV, UTSA defensive tackles will dominate him for four quarters.
  • This team’s toughness still hasn’t been tested this season. UNLV played a soft and meek game, allowing Arizona to break tackles and run sideline to sideline. I didn’t see UNLV deliver a hard hit and they never had a lead. The Roadrunners need to come out tough and start fast. An early sock to the mouth could surprise the Wildcats and provide UTSA with the inroad they need to pull a consecutive upset and send the city of San Antonio into a frenzy.

About jared

A UTSA alumnus that has been cast away to Austin, Jared enjoys live music and a craft beer. He thinks four verts is the best play in football but loves a QB sneak on fourth and inches. Twitter