FOX Insider Believes ‘Cats Could Surprise In South

With each new football season brings new optimism.

It’s no different in Tucson where the Arizona Wildcats have begun ramping up to their season opener at University of Phoenix Stadium against BYU on September 3rd.

Head coach Rich Rodriguez re-shuffled his staff after the ‘Cats allowed close to 36 points a game (108th of 128 in Division I) last fall finishing 7-6 with a bowl win over New Mexico. As has been the trend during Rich Rod’s stay in the Old Pueblo he has not yet named his starting quarterback.

At Pac-12 Media Days last month UofA was picked to finish fourth in the South.

Maybe that’s not such a bad thing for a team just a year removed from a division championship and spot in the Fiesta Bowl.

One well-respected college football insider believes Arizona, who opened camp on Thursday, will turn heads in 2016.

“I would not be surprised if Arizona rises up,” FOX/FS1’s Stewart Mandel told’s Brad Cesmat in a recent phone interview. “They’re only a season removed from playing in the Pac-12 title game.”

It’s no secret the ‘Cats must improve defensively to compete with the top half of the Pac-12 South but Mandel believes last year’s eye-popping defensive flaws may have been skewed.

“Injuries on defense just decimated that team last year,” Mandel explained of a squad that lost their leader in linebacker Scooby Wright for all but three games. “If they’re healthy…I can definitely see them having a nice bounce back season.”

Whether it’s incumbent redshirt junior Anu Solomon or Brandon Dawkins behind center to start the year expect Rich Rod’s offense to continue to produce. Arizona has scored at least 30 points 39 times during his tenure in Tucson.

Former Basha Bear, now redshirt sophomore quarterback Zack Werlinger and the team had some fun in the video above (courtesy: Arizona Wildcats) before getting to work.