The 45,777 fans that showed at Arizona Stadium up for the Wildcats’ Nov. 23 upset of fifth-ranked Oregon were painfully aware it might be the last time they would see the University of Arizona’s two-time All-American running back, Ka’Deem Carey, play on that field.
Now those fears have been confirmed. The sensational sophomore who was the nation’s leading rusher as a freshman announced yesterday that he would be taking his talents to the next level instead of coming back to use his final two years of college eligibility to run up school records that might never be broken.
In just the two years that he spent in Tucson he ran up 4,232 yards to take over as the school’s all-time career rushing leader. He didn’t finish the season as the nation’s rushing leader, as he did last year, but he did finish runner-up – an incredible two-year contribution to the game, and to the Wildcat program.
But that era has officially come to an end, and Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez must find a way to replace the kid that put his offense on his back and carried the team to back-to-back 8-5 seasons and two bowl wins. The candidate for the job will have to follow in the footsteps of a local favorite from nearby Canyon del Oro High School who:
– Rushed for 1,929 yards as a freshman, contributing 23 touchdowns to the 2012 campaign.
– Rushed for 1,885 yards and 19 TDs this season – despite missing the opening game against FCS opponent Northern Arizona University.
– On top of carrying the ball, pulled in 77 pass receptions in two seasons, for 670 yards and four touchdowns. If you added his reception yards with his rushing yards this season, he contributed 2,058 total yards and 20 touchdowns.
– Ran for 100 yards or more in every game he played this season.
– Set not only the career rushing record, but also claimed the school’s single-season record with his 1,929 yards last season. He closed out his short-lived college career with 26 different school records that he either owns or shares.
– Became the only offensive player in program history to earn consensus first-team All-American status twice.
Add to the loss of his Heisman-candidate running back the fact that Rodriguez must also find a new signal caller to replace graduating B.J. Denker, who was named the Most Valuable Offensive Player in Arizona’s dominant 42-19 win over Boston College in the AdvoCare V1oo Bowl. He put an exclamation mark on an outstanding senior season by directing an offensive attack that piled up 529 yards against BC, completing 17 of 24 pass attempts without an interception for 275 yards.
Next year’s starting quarterback will be the third in three years for Rodriguez – but it’s unlikely he will find another Ka’Deem Carey waiting in the wings.
Rodriguez told Carey he should wait until the season was over and then assess how high he might go in the draft before deciding to enter his name. The young man followed his coach’s advice and was evaluated as a second-round draft pick by the NFL draft advisory board. That sealed the deal.
The 5’10” 200-pounder is considered by many to be the top running back in the draft; ESPN.com ranks him third among draft-eligible running backs coming out this year.
It had to hurt, but Rodriguez put his best face on in wishing his meal ticket well. “Ka’Deem Carey was a great player for us,” he said in a written statement put out yesterday by the Arizona Athletics media department. “We wish him all the best as he pursues his professional career.”
Now it’s back to the drawing board, as Rodriguez tries to figure out a way to make up the 100 yards a game that Carey regularly brought to the party.
(Photo: Arizona Athletics)