Go Joe Bruin Talks To Zona Zealots About Arizona Football


We recently published a piece in our series covering the UCLA football team’s 2015 schedule about their Pac-12 opener against Arizona football. In their fourth game of the season, the Bruins travel to the desert to take on the Wildcats in a game that UCLA fans not only dread, but will ultimately mean a lot for both teams by season’s end.

We wanted to go a bit more in-depth with our coverage, so we talked to Shereen Rayan, Editor of the Arizona Fansided site, Zona Zealots.

Oct 11, 2014; Tucson, AZ, USA; Arizona Wildcats quarterback Anu Solomon (12)against the Southern California Trojans at Arizona Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Go Joe Bruin: So here is the big question, is Arizona football going to repeat as the South Division winners or was last season a fluke?

Zona Zealots: Have you been reading the Pac-12 Fight Club page (on Facebook)? Yeah some ASU fan challenged me and said last season was just a fluke. I can’t think that it was a fluke. I think Coach Rich Rod has a new way of looking at recruiting and it seemed to work last season. He has capitalized on drafting “our kinda guys” or players who are hungry and feel they were slighted by their recruit star rating. just like “Two Star” Scooby Wright III, look how that turned out, 9 awards last year.

Arizona started the year unranked. By season end they found themselves in the Pac-12 title game with Oregon. Fluke? I don’t think so, I think it was calculated and it was a suprise to the world but not to Rich Rod and his staff.

Honestly it’s hard to predict what will happen next season, but one thing I do know is, the Wildcats are going to play 60 minutes in each and every game, “All 60 minutes!”

GJB: What can we expect from QB Anu Solomon and RB Nick Wilson after leading their team to a 10-4 record as freshmen?

UCLA Bruins
UCLA Bruins /

UCLA Bruins

ZZ: Anu is maturing, he made some crucial mistakes last year in big games in which the Wildcats were so close to winning and probably had a chance.  I think he has pure skill and desire, it’s his choices which concern me.

Rich Rod has Khalil Tate coming in earlier than projected, he is arriving in December. He decided that he wanted to graduate high school early and get to Tucson early. I am not sure he will be able to play with the rules taken into account, but I feel it puts the pressure on Anu to perform as well as he has. Devin Modster is also coming in next season, so it’s now or never for Anu in my opinion.

As far as Nick Wilson, he is hungry to prove himself.  The NFL draft did not fare well for Wildcats, and Nick needs to make a statement this year if he wants to play in the NFL. He has shown what he’s got in the tank and he surely is a TD machine, so I am looking for great things from Nick!

GJB: What is head coach Rich Rodriguez doing right?

ZZ: He has his own style: Recruiting hungry three and four star players dying to show the world what they are made of, making sure his players never give up chanting “All 60 minutes!” after the close wins and imploring fans to stay in their seats the entire game, and he has full confidence his team can win.

Have you seen the post game video’s in the locker room? He somehow gets the team to have great chemistry and he has Matt Dudek, Director of On Campus Recruiting/Player Personnel. Matt makes everything fun. His mad social media skills keeps students and fans up to speed on what’s going on and brings them closer to the players so they feel part of the team.

Nov 28, 2014; Tucson, AZ, USA; Arizona Wildcats head coach Rich Rodriguez reacts against the Arizona State Sun Devils during the 88th annual territorial cup at Arizona Stadium. The Wildcats defeated the Sun Devils 42-35 to win the Pac-12 south title. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

GJB: I stated in my recent preview that if the Wildcat defense cannot get things going early in the season, they might be in trouble later (especially with no byes). Is this true and what does the defense need to do to succeed?

ZZ: I am hoping that Scooby Wright becomes the defensive leader on the team and mentors the rest of the defense throughout the season. I don’t know if Coach Rich Rod will continue with his defensive strategy that he used last season, a more of a zone defense.  I am not convinced that it was always the way to go, and feel he should change it up to keep the opponents guessing more. The pregame Haka dance is something also a popular ritual performed by the linemen with the ZonaZoo (the Wildcat student section), maybe that helps?

GJB: I also stated that UCLA fans dread going to Arizona because the Bruins have only won one of the last five games in Tucson. Will this be another shocker?

ZZ: Depends if Coach Mora is going to try to ice the kicker. Arizona fans dread the Rose Bowl just as much, seems we have a very hard time beating the Bruins at home. I happen to be in the Wildcast IMG Broadcast booth last year spotting tackles for Brian Jeffries (voice of the Wildcats), and let me tell you, it was not a loss that went unnoticed by the broadcaster or the coaches. There were a number of chances to beat the Bruins, but the Wildcats just couldn’t pull it out, it was very disappointing.

The ZonaZoo helps the team a lot, and the fans come in droves, it’s also usually hot, I think its going to be a close game and want to go to Tucson to be there in person… its going to be a good one!

GJB: Who are some of the breakout Arizona football players in 2015?

Nov 28, 2014; Tucson, AZ, USA; Arizona Wildcats linebacker Scooby Wright III (33) looks to the sideline during the third quarter of the territorial cup against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Arizona Stadium. The Wildcats won 42-35. Mandatory Credit: Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

ZZ: The obvious is Scooby Wright III, 9 awards! Scooby had one more year of mandatory eligibiity, so lucky us, he comes back next year and is already on Heismann watch lists.

We have a number of incoming Louisiana freshman coming in, a couple of players I’ve written about who want to show the world what New Orleans talent is made of. They are already in Tucson and they have some huge personalities, Kendal Franklin, Orlando Bradford, Shun Brown, and Antonio Parks.

I look for some great production by WR Cayleb Jones and Samajie Grant now that Austin Hill has graduated.

GJB: Where do you see Arizona finishing in the Pac-12?

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ZZ: I think they have a shot at returning to be the Pac-12 South champs, if only partly because everyone counts them out. They aren’t ranked again, and no broadcasters ever talks about them, they talk about Coach Rich Rod. So they have that going for them, people will always count them out, and they are hungry to show everyone last season wasn’t a fluke.

Anu Solomon and Casey Skowron (Kicker) absolutely have to show up this year, stronger, better skilled and fearless. If this happens, who knows how far they can go, I’m not counting them out and I enjoy being pleasantly surprised.

GJB: What is your prediction for the final Pac-12 standings (just order, not record)?

ZZ: 1. Arizona, 2. UCLA, 3. USC, 4. Utah, 5. Arizona State, 6. Colorado

Thanks to Shereen and everyone at Zona Zealots! Follow them for everything involving Arizona Wildcat sports, because you need to know about your enemy to defeat your enemy!

GO PAC-12!