The Arizona Wildcats always seem to have talented, capable running backs in their backfield each season. Keeping those running backs healthy and productive throughout an entire season has proven to be an issue in recent years, though.
Nic Grigsby, who was picked up by the Miami Dolphins, possessed unlimited levels of talent and skill while at UA, but he struggled to stay healthy after his breakout season in 2008. His durability issues paved the way for increased playing time for senior-to-be Keola Antolin, who has battled injury concerns himself the last two seasons. Big, bad, bruising tailback Greg Nwoko had flashes of brilliance last season, but he suffered a knee injury during summer workouts and will likely miss the entire 2011 season.
What would happen if Arizona was able to keep their running backs healthy for an entire season? The thought of having both a strong ground and air-attack is exciting just to think about.
Antolin will enter the season as the No. 1 guy for the Wildcats. There isn't too much doubt about that. If healthy, Antolin is capable of carrying an offense at times. Despite being undersized for the position, the feisty back out of Las Vegas uses his speed and quickness to his advantage while matched up against larger defenders. The aspect of his game that creates a larger dynamic for the offense is his ability to catch passes; 28 receptions, 204 yards and two touchdowns in 2010 is nothing to sneeze at and those numbers could improve with more reps and a field spread out by a bevy of talented wide receivers. Coach Stoops would be wise to utilize this part of his game.
Unfortunately, health will (once again) be the determining factor for Antolin's 2011 season. With injuries springing up throughout his career, Arizona fans will hold their collective breaths with every big hit he takes.
For as much as Antolin may represent the future of the running back position, Ka'Deem Carey represents even more of the future.
Carey, who is from Tucson and is one of Stoops' highest ranked recruits since taking over the program, projects to be the starting running back for a long time. Whether that first start comes a few weeks or not until 2012 remains to be seen, but rest assured he will in fact be the No. 1 option for a long time. The hype started to build after a phenomenal junior year in high school and his named continued to rise higher and higher up the rankings with each game.
If the buzz surrounding Carey wasn't big enough with just a few weeks remaining until the season kicks off, all reports indicated he looked phenomenal in a scrimmage that took place over the weekend. While it was just a scrimmage, something needs to be said for a true freshman to impress as much as he did.
Regardless if the primary starter is Antolin, Carey, or an under-the-radar guy such as Daniel Jenkins, all the Wildcats can hope for is production and health out of that player. For a program that has not had a consistent attack from the backfield since Mike Bell's days in the mid-2000's, it could really use it. A team can only throw the football so many times in a game.