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August 30, 2013

Arizona to debut new look against Northern Arizona

If 2012 was a new era in Arizona football, then 2013 is all about a new look.

The team's star running back will not be part of the festivities, however.

Second-year UA head coach Rich Rodriguez and the Wildcats will debut new uniforms, an artificial playing surface and re-open the renovated Arizona Stadium north end zone seats Friday in a season-opening nonconference game against Northern Arizona. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

But, Ka'Deem Carey, who led the nation with 1,929 rushing yards, will be held out of the game, per team policy, the school announced less than two hours before kickoff. No formal statement was released.

Fifth-year senior Daniel Jenkins is expected to start in his place.

There will be an infusion of new bodies for Rodriguez, who posted an 8-5 record in his first season in Tucson.

"Playing on a Friday night should be exciting for them. It's like high school, Friday Night Lights, and all that stuff," Rodriguez said.

Exactly who will handle the bulk of the snaps in those upgraded threads - which include a gradient on the numbers and sleeves - is something Rodriguez knows but will not announce. B.J. Denker, Jesse Scroggins and Javelle Allen emerged out of a six-man competition in the fall to replace Matt Scott - an all-conference quarterback who helped the Wildcats average 38.2 points last season.

Denker is the "frontrunner," Rodriguez said earlier in the week, and a senior who served as Scott's backup. The Torrance, Calif., native will at least likely handle the first series in what would be his second career start.

"Same nerves, same excitement," said Denker, who is not looking at the possibility of starting any differently than his fill-in job for an injured Scott in a 56-31 home win over Colorado last November.

That afternoon, Denker completed 12 of 14 passes for 136 yards, two touchdowns and a rushing score. However, that game is best remembered for Carey's single-game school and Pac-12 Conference record of 366 rushing yards and five touchdowns.

It was the signature performance of the year for Carey, who collected 2,248 all-purpose yards en route to consensus All-America honors.

But Carey's off-the-field issues put him in a bubble for most of the past eight months. Charges in a domestic violence case were dropped in June, and in his first and only media availability less than two weeks ago, Carey said he is ready to move on. Although, Rodriguez hinted at handing down an in-game punishment earlier in the week.

Moving forward, most of the focus will be back on how the junior responds to lofty expectations.

"If I listen to a lot of things, then you can be broken very easy," said Carey, who has not ruled out exceeding last season's numbers.

The Lumberjacks, meanwhile, are a Football Championship Subdivision program coming off an 8-3 season powered by their own star running back. Zach Bauman, who is on the Walter Payton Award watch list, enters his senior season 119 rushing yards away from becoming NAU's all-time leader.

In a 2011 contest against the Wildcats, the 5-10, 200-pounder rushed for 99 yards on 27 carries and added four catches for 20 yards at Arizona Stadium.

Arizona allowed more than 206 rushing yards per contest, ranking 105th out of 120 FBS programs last season.

"[Bauman] runs hard," Rodriguez said. "He's a tough, physical player. He reminds us of our backs a little bit. Some backs you've got to really tackle. I mean, you've got to wrap up, you've got to put your hat on them and get them on the ground. He's one of them. He's a really good player, really good player."

The UA defense, in general, is looking for a turnaround after surrendering a yard shy of 500 per game. Depth was an issue, and the 'Cats could turn to as many as six true freshmen early in the season on that side of the ball.

Among the immediate first-year contributors will be: linebackers Scooby Wright, Derrick Turituri and DeAndre Miller, and reserve cornerback Devin Holiday. The defense also will add defensive end Kyle Kelley, who redshirted as a true freshman in 2012.

But there also will be plenty of experience returning, with a combined 210 career starts on the defense.

"I can't wait to see what they do this year and I can't wait to see how they do in the future," said UA senior Marquis Flowers, whose 100 tackles last season was second only to Jake Fischer's 119 for team-high honors.

"I think everyone on this defense is eager to get out there. We've got a chip on our shoulder, too. I honestly can't wait to see what we do. We've been doing good (in fall camp). It's time to put it to the test now."

Notes

Both teams will honor the 19 firefighters who died in the Yarnell wildfire with special helmet decals. Arizona leads the all-time series, 11-1, including a 41-10 win in the previous meeting. NAU will start its own unproven commodity at quarterback in sophomore Kyren Poe, a fourth-stringer who was moved to receiver in 2012. NAU head coach Jerome Souers' 84 wins is one shy of tying Don Read for second place on the Big Sky's all-time wins list. UA true freshman running back Pierre Cormier, a four-star talent out of San Diego, announced he is redshirting this season. Out with season-ending knee injuries are redshirt freshman offensive lineman Beau Boyster and sophomore linebacker Cody Ippolito, who also will redshirt.

Tracy McDannaldTracy McDannald
GOAZCATS.com Senior Editor

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