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Checkin' on the Pac: Arizona

With Pac-10 media day now in the books, it's time to start looking toward training camp and the actual 2010 season, which will likely be one of the more wide-open races in the recent history of the conference. We certainly know a lot of the ins-and-outs of the USC roster, but how much do we know about our Pac-10 counterparts? To shore up any gaps in our knowledge, we'll be running a 9-part interview series with many of the best team-specific Pac-10 blogs on the web. For part four, here's a Q&A with Vince Marotta of for some info on the Arizona Wildcats:

Q: Mike Stoops lost both his offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes and defensive coordinator Mark Stoops to Louisiana Tech (HC) and Florida State (DC) respectively. How much of an adjustment period do you expect?

A: Well, one of the adjustments Arizona will have to make is getting used to having more coordinators than any other team in the country. Bill Bedenbaugh and Seth Littrell become co-coordinators on offense while Greg Brown and Tim Kish take over for Mark Stoops on 'D'.

I don't think the offense will skip a beat seeing as how so much talent is back from a year ago. The Wildcats return 10 starters on that side of the football. The transition may be on defense, where the 'Cats, in addition to seeing Mark Stoops depart for Tallahassee, also lost seven starters.

Q: Nick Foles was a part of the Pac-10 ESPN quarterback tour, which also featured Matt Barkley, Jake Locker, and Andrew Luck. Where do you feel Foles ranks among Pac-10 signal callers?

A: I feel that Foles is definitely behind Locker, Luck and Barkley (in that order) on a Pac-10 quarterback pecking list, but he's solidly the fourth best quarterback in the conference right now. As long as he's able to throw short passes, he'll be fine. I found that Foles and Arizona got into trouble when he was forced to throw the ball down the field.

Q: With the departure of Dykes, do any of the schemes change on the offensive end. Particularly with the return of Nic Grigsby will there be more of an emphasis on running the football?

A: I don't feel the schemes will change much since Dykes is gone. Both Bedenbaugh and Littrell coached under Dykes in Tucson last year, and as they say "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." The Wildcats threw the ball 53% of the time last year, and that number is skewed a little bit by a rash of injuries in the corps of running backs near the end of last season. If all is right, with Grigsby back and healthy, along with Keola Antolin and Greg Nwoko, expect an even 50/50 run/pass split.

Q: Last year, Arizona came into the Coliseum and really stuffed the 'SC offense, but this year, they lose 8 starters and there appear to be some question marks. Are you expecting any sort of drop off?

A: Yes, Arizona had a good defense in 2009 (2nd overall in Pac-10) but the fact that the Wildcats stuffed USC at the Coliseum last season, in my opinion, had more to do with the Trojans (for the first time in a long time) having a pretty pedestrian offense. That being said, yes, any time a team loses 7 starters and a coordinator from either side of the ball, there should be a drop-off. What Arizona has going for it is that the starters coming back in defensive lineman Brooks Reed and Ricky Elmore as well as DBs Trevin Wade and Robert Golden are really nice building blocks for the defense.

Q: Stoops called Tucson the second best gameday experience in the Pac-10, just behind Autzten Stadium in Eugene. Is there any truth in his bold declaration?

A: I can't stand Tucson. I'm an ASU guy. But I will say this, when things are going well for Arizona, whether it's in football or basketball, the game day experience is pretty good. I agree with Stoops that game day in Eugene is far and away the number one atmosphere in the conference. And there's a lot of Pac-10 markets that aren't just college towns (Seattle, Los Angeles, Bay Area, Phoenix) and I think the atmosphere suffers in cities where there's a lot of sporting options. Due to that and the attendance figures from last season that showed Arizona filled 90.9% of their seats in 2009, you can certainly make that claim.

Q: The 'Cats are infamously the only team in the Pac-10 to have never played in the Rose Bowl. With the departure of Jeremiah Masoli at Oregon and a sanctioned USC, will they finally celebrate New Year's in Pasadena?

6. Yes, Masoli is gone and that's a blow for Oregon, but I still expect the Ducks to win the conference this season, making it 33 straight years that Arizona hasn't gone to the Rose Bowl.