Arizona’s football season is officially in the books and the debut season of Rich Rodriguez was considered a success by most accounts. Taking over a team with holes and question marks all over the roster, Rodriguez got nearly everything he could out of a roster that was lacking depth at most positions, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
There were many players that took advantage of what Rodriguez and the new staff brought to the team. There were a few that stood above the rest and those players deserve recognition for what they were able to accomplish on the field during the 2012 campaign.
Team MVP and Offensive Player of the Year: Ka’Deem Carey
With all due respect to Matt Scott – who had a tremendous final year as a Wildcat – Carey is the most dynamic player UA has seen in years, maybe ever. The Tucson native could end up finishing the season leading the nation in rushing yards (depending on how others below him perform in their bowl games) and forced his way into the UA record book under several different categories.
In all likelihood, Carey will play one more season in college if his junior campaign is anywhere near the season he just had. He ran over, around, and through just about everyone that tried to stop him and he only seemed to get stronger as the season progressed.
His play forced people to at least reference his name when the Heisman Trophy discussions surfaced late in the season and had UA won 10 games instead of eight, Carey may have had a legitimate shot to compete for the award. Look for him to be a preseason Heisman mention by nearly every publication and sports media outlet in August.
Defensive Player of the Year: Marquis Flowers
The defense struggled for much of the year, but don’t blame Flowers. The linebacker was moved from safety prior to the start of the season and it turned out to benefit both Flowers and the defensive unit. Flowers continuously made plays all over the field, whether he was running down the quarterback, stopping a running back behind the line of scrimmage, or disrupting the passing game with his coverage.
As each game passed and Flowers acclimated himself to his role at linebacker in Jeff Casteel’s 3-3-5 defense, he seemed to produce more. Flowers finished the 2012 season second on the team in tackles, first in sacks, first in tackles for loss, and tied for the team lead in interceptions. With his constant growth throughout his junior season, Flowers should take an even bigger leap next season with a year of linebacker under his belt.
Breakout Player: Austin Hill
Anyone with a set of eyes and the ability to dissect the game of football saw what Austin Hill brought to the table last season. The question was, would he be able to produce at a high level with a coach coming in who had a history of preferring the run over the pass?
Hill answered that question by continuously making big plays whenever he was called upon to do so. As of December 24, Hill was eighth in the nation in receiving yards per game, fifth in total receiving yards, tied for 18th in receptions, and tied for 11th in receiving touchdowns.
Hill’s presence on the roster makes the quarterback’s job easier, but it also forces Arizona to balance its attack with the pass more. Hill’s dynamic playmaking ability was prevalent throughout the season and he should continue to be a huge component in 2013 no matter who is under center.
Rocky Award: Matt Scott
Scott was drilled, clocked, and crushed numerous times throughout the season, but the UA quarterback continued to fight through most of it.
One of the first things UA fans will remember when looking back on 2012 are visions of Scott vomiting on several different occasions only to run back on to the field (or to the line of scrimmage) shortly after.
Scott contributed in numerous ways this season. He ran the ball well when needed and his ability to spread the field with his arm was one of the primary factors in the Wildcats’ offensive success. What Scott could be remembered for most, however, is how tough he was throughout the campaign and what he put himself through to make sure Arizona won football games.