Will off-field troubles at UA hurt Carey’s Heisman hopes?

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                </div>The assault and disorderly conduct charges against Ka’Deem Carey have been dropped, but has the resultant bad publicity left a stain on the character of the Arizona Wildcats‘ star running […]<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons below -->
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The assault and disorderly conduct charges against Ka’Deem Carey have been dropped, but has the resultant bad publicity left a stain on the character of the Arizona Wildcats‘ star running back?

And will it have a negative impact on the chances that the nation’s rushing leader from last season will be considered a candidate for the 2013 Heisman Trophy, the coveted prize presented each season to the country’s top college football player?

Yes and no.  The misdemeanor assault and disorderly conduct charge that stemmed from an altercation with his ex-girlfriend last December, combined with a follow-up incident during a UofA basketball game which got him ejected from the gym, certainly has called into question his character.

But, despite rumblings about a potential bid for the Heisman, this latest misstep likely would not have any lasting effect on his worthiness for the annual award, assuming he could put up the same kind of numbers he did last year as a sophomore.  His nation’s-best 1.929 yards last season left the graduate of Tucson’s Canyon del Oro High School just 71 yards short of becoming the 16th player in NCAA history to reach the 2,000-yard plateau.

However, what will likely hold him back is his decision to play at Arizona.

The Heisman winner is invariably from a program that contends for a national title or, at the least, for a major conference championship.  Early projections have shown the Wildcats will likely be a pre-season pick to finish in the middle of the Pac-12 standings, at best.

Despite the fact that Arizona will return the core of a strong offensive line, the Cats’ will be without their offensive line coach from last season, Robert Anae.  It was Anae, who left to take over as offensive coordinator at BYU, that showed the linemen how to open the holes for Carey, enabling him to run for a school-record 23 touchdowns and set numerous other records.

His 366 rushing yards against Colorado erased the old conference mark of 357 yards set 29 years ago.  That performance also broke the school record of 288 yards, and his five touchdowns in that game tied another school record.

The Cats finished with an 8-5 record in 2012 and won a bowl game.  They will return 17 starters from that squad, more than all but two other teams in the Pac-12.

But the one that won’t be returning will have the most effect on the coming season.

Matt Scott, who was the seventh-most productive quarterback in the nation with 338.5 yards per game, has moved on to the professional game.  With him under center, Arizona compiled an average 522 yards and 37 points per game.

He wrapped up his college career by engineering one of the biggest come-back victories in UofA history by bringing the Cats back from 21 points down late in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl to pull out the one-point win over Nevada with 19 second left on the clock.

Second-year head coach Rich Rodriguez has four options to replace Scott, but only one with experience in his zone-read, hurry-up offensive system.  B.J. Denker, a senior who played JUCO ball at Cerritos College in California,  played in six games last year, starting one when Scott was out with an injury.  He threw for 279 yards and rushed for 74 during his sporadic appearances.

The other three include two true freshmen and a transfer, Jesse Scroggins, a junior who started out at USC and then played at El Camino College in California before signing on with the Cats in December.

The other hurdle that Arizona must clear in order to have the kind of season Carey would need for any post-season accolades like the Heisman is its woeful defense, which last season finished last in the Pac-12 by allowing opponents to score nearly 500 yards a game.

And, if you look back at the three years Rodriguez spent at Michigan, there’s a pattern of teams that can score points in bunches, but can’t stop the other guys from doing the same thing.  It wouldn’t be a stretch to assume that next season may be just another chapter in that playbook.

So, expect Carey to have another productive year, but probably not as bountiful as last season, as defenses key on him even more and the offensive line struggles to provide the kind of daylight he will need to gobble up big yardage.

This will probably be the last year of college ball for the troubled youngster, as the big money awaits at the next level.   Wildcat Nation will have one more campaign to savor the thrill of  watching one of the best running backs in the country performing on their own field.

And that may be the best they can expect out of the coming season.

(Photo: Arizona Athletics)