‘Empty backfield’ at UA? Jenkins makes departure official

Rich Rodriguez must feel like he stepped away from his bowl victory last month and into the spin cycle on a washing machine.

In the 33 days since the University of Arizona football team beat the Nevada Wolfpack in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl, the Wildcats’ first-year head coach has lost three assistant coaches, a quarterback, and possibly both of his running backs.

And only one of those departures was expected.

A little more than a week ago we reported on the resignation of Robert Anae, the offensive line coach that left to accept a job as offensive coordinator at BYU, and the earlier departure of Spencer Leftwich, the tight ends and special teams coach who is now on staff at UTEP.

About the same time, Tony Gibson, the assistant head coach who was responsible for the safeties and helped with special teams, announced his plans to leave for West Virginia, where he will coach the safeties.

Meanwhile, on the field…

Matt Scott, who led the Cats to an 8-5 record as a fifth-year senior, has left to pursue a career after college.  But RichRod is now also contemplating the future without his top two running backs.

The play-calling term ’empty backfield’ has taken on a whole new meaning here.

Daniel Jenkins just made his decision to leave the program official with a tweet yesterday to say goodbye to his followers.  He had announced his intent to leave shortly after the New Mexico Bowl, but until this week, when he decided on Washington State, Rodriquez might have been able to hold out some hope he would change his mind.

But the Cougars, who had one of the nation’s worst offenses last season, are evidently going to give the 5’9″, 196-pound running back a chance to be THE guy, instead of THE guy’s back-up.  In exchange, Jenkins will give WSU the remaining year of eligibility he will get by entering the school’s graduate program.  Since Arizona doesn’t offer the courses he needs for his Public Policies graduate program, the NCAA doesn’t require him to sit out a season following the transfer.

Jenkins wants a chance to prove he can play at the next level, but figured he couldn’t do that playing behind Ka’Deem Carey, who led the nation in rushing last year and has two more years of eligibility left.  Jenkins got 67 carries last season as he ran up 293 yards and accounted for two touchdowns.

However, right now Carey’s future with the team is in limbo while he awaits the outcome of a legal matter that may determine his future with the team.  The sophomore from Canyon del Oro High School in Tucson is being arraigned in City Court this week on an domestic violence charge that was filed against him by his girlfriend last month.

The school and his head coach have taken a wait-and-see approach to the issue and have been careful to hold off judgement until the legal system has had time to rule on whether Carey is guilty or innocent of the charges.

Jenkins, who may become the only player leaving the program by his own choice, had nothing but good things to say about his education in Tucson.  He tweeted that “UofA will always be my alma mater.”

That sets up the unusual situation of a college athlete playing against his alma mater.  The Cougars will be in town Nov. 16 to play the Wildcats in a Pac-12 match-up.