Gimino: Scooby's status, QB starter, RichRod's future

Published: Oct. 29, 2015 at 10:53 PM MST|Updated: Mar. 2, 2018 at 4:24 PM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Hard to believe the Arizona Wildcats have just over three weeks left before the regular-season finale at Arizona State. Then, technically, the Wildcats get their bye after playing 12 consecutive weeks.

Just in time, right?

Anyway, there are some hot topics around this 5-3 team that faces a closing stretch in which it will be an underdog in each of four games, starting with the contest at Washington on Saturday night.

Let's get to it ...

1. Will Scooby Wright play for Arizona again?

Coach Rich Rodriguez said Wednesday he is holding out hope that his All-American linebacker will come back from a sprained right foot before the end of regular season on Nov. 21, but that's about all it is right now: Hope.

"Who knows? I can't rush it," Rodriguez said. "It's whatever happens, happens."

The Wright family is hoping, too, and isn't ruling anything out, but I'll say it: The only way Scooby is playing again this season is if it's in a bowl game. Arizona has to win one more game to become bowl eligible.

"The good news is the MRIs were clean," Wright's dad, Phil Wright, said this week. "We sent him to couple of extra doctors, and they said the same thing as the UA doctors. They said it was just time. He'll wake up one day and it'll be fine. ...

"I just hope they get bowl eligible and he gets the opportunity to play. That would be an ideal situation."

Wright suffered the foot injury against UCLA on Sept. 26 in his return from a meniscus injury in his left knee, suffered Sept. 3. Did he come back too soon? Is it possible one injury led to the other?

Phil Wright said it's impossible to know, although doctors have said it's a plausible theory.

For sure, Scooby will absolutely take his time in his return from this injury.

Wright is lifting weights and running on an underwater treadmill. He even received acupuncture treatment this week. But he's not yet pain-free.

"He's not going to come back 80 percent healthy just to come back," Phil said. "He's going to come back at 150 percent."

You get the point.

Returning for a bowl game is do-able. Playing at some point in the next three weeks almost certainly isn't.

The larger question is whether Wright will jump to the NFL after this season. Sorry, there's no good answer to that.

"We can't even put a plan together until he's healthy," Phil Wright said. "Until he's healthy, it's all muddy waters."

2. Who starts at quarterback?

It should be Jerrard Randall.

Just a few weeks ago, I wrote that sophomore Anu Solomon -- who has started 21 of the past 22 games -- was like "comfort food" for the Arizona offense. Since then, Solomon hasn't been sharp, hasn't excelled in the areas in which he's good at -- seeing the field and delivering the ball to the right spot at the right time.

"He didn't play poorly," Rodriguez said of last Saturday's game against Washington State.

"There were a couple of plays that he would like to have back, just like anybody else. I think more than anything, when I made a change, it was more for trying to get a spark offensively. And more of what we wanted to run just fit more of Jerrard's skill set."

Especially since Solomon suffered a concussion against UCLA on Sept. 26, there has been a reluctance on either his part or the coaches' part to use him in the quarterback run game. If he's not a threat to run, the defense doesn't need a "spy" and can devote an extra body to pass coverage. That's not ideal.

Randall, who had his best passing effort last week to go with his prolific running skills, has come off the bench in the past two games to do what Rodriguez wanted -- provide a spark. Randall has led the Cats to touchdowns on six of eight drives in the past two games.

End of debate.

Both quarterbacks probably play Saturday, but Randall has earned the start.

3. What school has best chance to lure RichRod?

According to various media reports, Rodriguez will be a candidate for vacancies at South Carolina, Miami and Virginia Tech, if 69-year-old Hokies coach Frank Beamer retires after this season.

At least a few of those reports have indicated that Rodriguez would like to get back to his "East Coast roots." But it's impossible to know if someone behind the scenes is feeding that narrative to those writers ... or if they are just making assumptions ... or if they are just picking up each other's ideas and running with them as their own.

Would Rodriguez be interested in any of those jobs?

From an Arizona perspective, the one that would scare me is Tech. The Hokies can put together enough money, have a full-time passionate fan base, a team that doesn't need a rebuild, and it's easier to win in the ACC Coastal than the Pac-12 South.

Yes, Miami is in the Coastal, too, but compared to Tech, would Rodriguez really want to deal with outsized expectations, hands-on football alums living in the past and a largely indifferent home crowd?

If the Arizona season goes further south, all this talk might not be an issue. Those schools and others would be more reluctant to knock on RichRod's door.

"Rich's name being out there is much more a reflection on the great job he has done for the University of Arizona," athletic director Greg Byrne said on his weekly appearance on 1290-AM. "I would much rather have coaches here that are getting mentioned for other jobs because of the great job they're doing at U of A rather than, 'Hey, how do we get rid of this guy?'"

Rodriguez has it good at Arizona, including what certainly appears to be a great relationship with Byrne. That's valuable.

But I think two things could cause Rodriguez to have a wandering coaching eye (and these thoughts are entirely my own speculation): The difficulty in getting fans to Arizona Stadium, and frustration with Pac-12 scheduling and travel.

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Anthony Gimino has covered University of Arizona athletics for more than two decades, including as the football beat writer for the Arizona Daily Star and the columnist for the Tucson Citizen.