The Arizona Wildcats’ starting quarterback in 2013 will be senior B.J. Denker. Well, at least for now.
Denker’s performance in the season opener against NAU was lackluster – he went 9-for-13 for 87 yards, while running the ball 13 times for 71 yards – but he did not turn the ball over and accounted for two touchdowns. This was enough to persuade head coach Rich Rodriguez to list him as the primary starter for Saturday’s game against UNLV.
He will make his third career start in Las Vegas, while freshman Javelle Allen and junior Jesse Scroggins, who were listed as co-starters in the season opener, are now second and third on the depth chart, respectively.
While it’s a nice honor for Denker, it comes with elevated expectations for Game 2.
“We need to be able to throw a lot better than Friday night,” Rodriguez said in his Monday press conference. “I was really conservative in the play calling. I told the team that and the coaches. We can get by with that because we were running the ball and NAU wasn’t scoring. But going forward, we are going to need to throw the ball because teams are going to put everyone up front if you aren’t throwing the ball.”
Denker, who served as Matt Scott‘s primary backup last season, was seen as having an inside track to this season’s starting role. However, concerns over his arm strength have prevented him from securing the position.
While those concerns were validated in the season opener, so were his intangibles. Wildcats coaches and players feel that Denker’s leadership, confidence and running ability will make up for any passing deficiencies.
When Daniel Jenkins broke off his 91-yard touchdown run, Denker was running stride-for-stride with him, blocking downfield for the senior running back. Denker was also one of the first people off the sideline to congratulate Allen after his 61-yard touchdown run.
“B.J. (Denker) played very well,” said senior offensive lineman Chris Putton. “For him, only playing a few games last year and not having that much experience, he went out there and he did his best and commanded the team very well.”
While Denker has big shoes to fill – the last two Wildcats quarterbacks, Scott and Nick Foles, are currently earning NFL paychecks – he doesn’t have to replicate their statistics to be successful. He has a lot of talent alongside him, and as long as he does not turn the ball over, the Wildcats’ offense will be fine.