As longtime readers know, the Friday Fizz is my own personal, internal demon…err…alter ego. He says he spends most of the time hiding out in the cellar, basement, man cave, whatever, channeling his emotions and readying himself for the always critical fall sports calendar, but the truth is that hole in which he hides is buried deep within my own being. Not good..
Senior Solomon Hill be in charge of keeping the Wildcats in line when off the court in the Bahamas.
The dawn of Arizona football’s fall camp, coupled with Wildcat basketball’s pending trip to the Bahamas has the Friday Fizz bubbling to the surface. Hence, it’s only appropriate for my two personalities to battle it out in a general discussion about Arizona football and basketball, plus some other stuff.
First, let’s look at the tale of the tape:
THE FRIDAY FIZZ
The Fizz is the director of communications for a large-enterprise, global company that specializes in workforce management, consulting and human capital technology. In short, he’s busy with midnight conference calls to the United Kingdom, India, and so on. He’s a passionate Arizona fan, an economics and journalism major, and an all around good guy who just so happens to be one sarcastic sonuvahgun. The Fizz comes with his own mascots, his official Friday Fizz Gal Holly Sanders, and a sports toy and baseball card collection that would rival that of a 9-year old.
GDAZZO a.k.a. ME
A reputable, trusted, sports journalist whose features have been published on espn.com, sportsillustrated.com, and 247Sports.com, to name a few. Loves the recruiting side of high school and collegiate athletics, focusing more on the story behind the story, but also enjoys breaking down film to provide readers insight into the X’s and O’s of the teams they watch. Where The Fizz is unreasonable, Gdazzo is typically reasonable, and most importantly, unbiased.
What’s your prediction for Arizona’s upcoming football season?
The Friday Fizz: I feel good about it. Defensively, I have my concerns, but on the offensive side of the ball I think Rich Rodriguez’s magic will shine through once conference play begins. Arizona should easily go 7-5, but I think they may go 8-4 with a 6-3 Pac-12 record because of their special teams. It’s no secret that Arizona’s special teams have been not-so-special of late. I can easily see Rich Rod & Co. loading special teams with speed, and then more speed. Add in this coaching staff’s past success with special teams, and I’m predicting more blocked punt attempts (or forced shanks), bigger returns, and vastly-improved field position for the Wildcats. Gone are the days of facing first and 10 from Arizona’s own 20, which sort of became a staple in six of the eight seasons under Stoops.
Gdazzo: Fair points, but I would have liked to have seen you address those defensive concerns you alluded to. Let me take the rose-colored glasses off your eyes and shed some light on why Arizona’s defense worries me to death. While I’m excited to see the debut of Jeff Casteel’s 3-3-5 Stack here in Tucson, I do worry about its effectiveness against a Pac-12 schedule that features offenses that attack the interior of the defensive line in their running games. Perhaps Arizona could shock the world against a true horizontal spread offense like Oregon’s, but how effective will the Wildcats be against true play action offenses like those at USC, UCLA, Washington and Stanford? Yes, all four have their own concerns upfront along the offensive line, but those concerns also come in the form of 4- and 5-star recruits who can swallow me in one bite. Some are already saying that USC might have the best collection of offensive skill players in the history of college football. When Arizona loads the box against the Trojans and others, will the newness of the 3-3-5 system result in major coverage breakdowns that see these four Pac-12 clubs, all with all-star caliber quarterbacks, strike for big gains through the air? In the end, I see loads of potential for Arizona, so much so that a 6-6 season would not be a disappointment by any stretch of the imagination.
Which Wildcats will surprise fans this season?
The Fizz: "Yes, I do have my own mascots. Deal with it."
The Friday Fizz: That’s an easy one, Matt Scott. Many are still critiquing the Scott that looked robotic in a 27-17 loss at Iowa in 2009. I prefer to consider the post Frank Scelfo Scott that learned the importance of footwork, balance and proper shoulder angles required to release the football with accuracy. While I worry about his health, I worry little about his ability to lead this offense.
Gdazzo: I’m getting heartburn from the fact that we’re on the same page here. I’ll take it a step further, though. Arizona’s projected starting center Kyle Quinn will contend for an all-conference spot with his play. I’ll go further and say that without Quinn playing well Scott can’t truly shine. Arizona will be out of the shotgun 90% of the time this season, which means Quinn and Scott need to be on the same page 100% of the time to both ensure a proper snap, and to marry the offensive line audibles to those Scott is signaling to his skill players. Add in a noisy stadium, and particularly a road venue’s noise and without symmetry you have disaster.
Additionally, I’m predicting a strong season for Marquis Flowers. A year ago Flowers was all over the field, and not in a good way. A big hit would be followed by a blown read in coverage. The talent is there and after two full seasons of action, and new tutelage, a more at-ease and steadily consistent Flowers equals a much-improved Flowers. Other potential notables include DT Sione Tuihalamaka and Kirifi Taula, DB/LB Tra’Mayne Bondurant, and offensive skill players Taimi Tutogi and Austin Hill, who may actually outshine Dan Buckner as Arizona’s red zone playmaker this season.
What can Arizona basketball hope to achieve in the Bahamas?
The Friday Fizz: Honestly, if they can get through this road trip without one teammate throwing another teammate’s shoes down the laundry chute they should be in good shape. Last season, early road trips (in-season) opened the door, literally, to mayhem (in its loosest term) and tomfoolery (in its grandest sense), which tore a significant divide between several teammates.
Gdazzo: No dispute there. However, the trip is much more than that. Sean Miller will go longer stretches with the same personnel on the floor to get a sense of player combinations. Rather than rotating certain players every 3-4 minutes of live action, he may go a stretch or two per game where he gets an extended look at how certain players are playing with others. With seven new faces on the roster, five of which will contribute immediately, it’s a benefit to Arizona to get the player combo looks now rather than waiting until the two exhibition games prior to the start of the season.
Second, Miller’s going to want to see more energy from his team. While a trip to the Bahamas is both exotic and fun, practices and games will be ultra competitive, even if it’s pitting Wildcat vs. Wildcat in position battles. After missing the NCAA’s for the second time in three seasons, Miller doesn’t want to coach through another year where the challenge is simply trying to win enough games to earn postseason play. Instead, he wants to return to his days at Xavier when he was building his clubs to excel the most in February and March.
Lastly, as you suggest, team chemistry will be huge on this trip, as well setting the standards for team travel. Miller will teach his seven new players, and ask for leadership among his returners, to educate the entire team on how to travel for road games. Conference road trips, and particularly the Christmas week tournament in Honolulu for the Diamond Head Class, aren’t to be viewed as vacations. Instead, they’re goal-oriented, business trips that require discipline, focus, and adherence to team rules. The Bahamas will give the team an opportunity to experience life on the road as a Wildcat, and hopefully this year’s club will demonstrate much more maturity.
The potential is there for Sione Tuihalamaka to have a big year in 2012.
Work aside, what have you been up to lately?
The Friday Fizz: The Olympics have been great. I forget how much I enjoy watching things like competitive badmitton, table tennis, and women’s gymnastics. I’ve also got a new favorite commercial, derived from pure advertising genius by our friends at EA Sports. The whole NCAA Football 2013 campaign has some real potential, especially considering that their first television ad went something like this:
Fairly large dad wearing a significantly large and loud Ohio State sweatshirt walks into his son’s room, looks at the video game his son is playing and says, “Is that Desmond Howard in an Ohio State uniform?” The son, knowing this is a problem, quickly says no, but is trumped by the video game announcer calling play-by-play of Howard dancing into the end zone for a touchdown. The dad gives a classic response saying, “That’s really neat, wow,” before hurling the television out a second-story window and then telling his traitorous son, “Lunch is in 10, bud.”
Gdazzo: Golf game’s still in tip-top shape. Shot a 1-over 72 from the tips at Nick Faldo’s Shadow Ridge course a few weeks back. The highlight of the round was a hybrid 4-wood to an uphill, bunkered green on a 505-yard par 4. Granted, I was some 40-feet from the pin, but the high cut shot to avoid the pot bunkers on the left felt darn good. That followed a 9-hole 33 to get the juices flowing.
If I could, I’d like to ask the readers if they know of any great stretching exercises for foot arches, and the Achilles tendon. My team is readying for the title game in our men’s basketball league and my feet are burning in pain these days. The men’s league has been entertaining this season. Unfortunately, the competition is sub-standard this year. We had a 3-game stretch where we won by an average of 63 points. In a way I felt like Nic Wise’s dad in Houston when we were beating teams 119-43, 111-52 and 106-38. Still, for the most part if feels more like Team USA. In every game this year, the score is typically 25-16 before we go on an Arizona Wildcats circa 1988 30-4 scoring run to blow the game open. It helps when your roster is comprised almost entirely of former collegiate basketball players, but that’s a story for a different time.
As for this weekend, I’ll be covering some of the top high school basketball athletes as they compete at the Adidas Nations finals in Southern California. For those fans interested, you can watch the finals Monday night on the CBS college sports network beginning at 5 p.m. PDT.
Entering the 2012 football season, what’s the one statistic that troubles you the most from 2011 that must be improved upon to win games?
The Friday Fizz: Can Arizona’s 2011 record of 4-8 be considered a statistic? No, what about its 1-5 away record? Still no, I reject the question then because as a fan wins and losses are all that matter. How the teams gets to their wins and losses is meaningless to me.
Gdazzo: Arizona’s 35.5 points allowed in 2011 was troubling, especially when you consider that the Wildcats only scored an average of 30.8 per contest. I’ve been a longtime critic of Arizona’s spread offense under Stoops that struggled to score more than a freckled, frumpy teenager in high school. However, there was an improvement in point production from a year ago so the potential is there. I can only assume that Casteel will figure out a way to limit opponents’ scoring to less than 30 points a game (as a starter to a much better defense seasons from now). Still, under Rich Rodriguez’s offense, the Wildcats won’t ever contend for a conference title and Rose Bowl appearance in a zone-read offensive scheme if they don’t begin to score more in line with a team like Oregon that averaged a whopping 46.1 points per game last year. My point is first and foremost, Arizona needs to improve its scoring averages to at least exceed its points allowed in 2012, and then in future seasons start to see its scoring average broach the 40-point threshold.
That’s all for now, folks.
Bear Down, Everyone!
And Bear Down, Arizona!
You can follow “us” on Twitter @garyrandazzo, and please follow WSR @WSRArizona.