Carey Ready To Make A Splash
By Nicole Dimtsios
The name Ka'Deem Carey was familiar to Arizona Wildcat fans before he made a splash in the backfield.
A Tucson native and former star at Canyon Del Oro High School, Carey's resume was already stellar prior to becoming a Wildcat. Carey compiled 71 touchdowns in his junior and senior high school seasons, won a state championship and nearly broke the Arizona state high school rushing record.
The 5-foot-10, 190-pound freshman running back was the top-ranked recruit in UA's 2011 class and instantly became Arizona's hometown hero.
"I think I have to live up to that," Carey said about embracing the spotlight. "I haven't proven anything out here."
The willingness to take on the pressure is one of the intangibles that allowed Carey to claw up the depth chart in summer practices and a motivating factor that has kept him in the No. 2 running back spot behind senior Keola Antolin, according to running backs coach Garrett Chachere.
"Everybody here thinks Ka'Deem is the next Herschel Walker or the next Tony Dorsett or insert Heisman-trophy winner," Chachere said, "I told him the only thing he can do is be the best Ka'Deem he can be."
That meant learning how to block and adjusting to the speed of the college game. Chachere said that Carey's running ability was obvious from the start of camp, but his improvement in the pass rush and run blocking games is why Carey is seeing more snaps than the coaching staff originally anticipated.
Because he has a fan base already established in Tucson, Carey said that he plays for more than just to win when he steps on the field.
"Just getting to play in front of all these fans where you're from, it's just something special," Carey said. "You can't have that feeling anywhere else. I love it out there."
Arizona fans got a glimpse of Carey's potential in the Wildcats' first game this season against Northern Arizona. Although he didn't see action until the fourth quarter, Carey was as comfortable on the field at Arizona Stadium as he had been throughout high school. On just nine carries, Carey rushed for 59 yards, a mark that made him the first freshman to be the Arizona's rushing leader in the opening game in 20 years.
Adjusting to the college game has been one of the season's biggest challenges, Carey said. While he easily swerved through holes created by the offensive line in high school, he hasn't seen nearly the same level of productivity in college.
"It's a big change," Carey said. "Learning the offense, just knowing what I'm doing out there."
Although he's had a learning curve, Carey said playing in college has had many challenges and that he's faced much more exposure. Chachere said Carey's vision and ball instincts have helped him to stay motivated throughout the transition from the Friday-night-lights to the ESPN cameras.
"That new experience really invigorates you, energizes you, gets you focused," Chachere said. "I think that's a lot of what's going on here. Every week it's Oregon, and Stanford and USC so you can stay focused."
And while Arizona's run game has stalled since its win over Northern Arizona, the Wildcats have faced the tough defenses of Oklahoma State, Stanford and Oregon in consecutive weeks.
Arizona's inexperienced offensive line has had to face three straight top-10 nationally ranked schools, and faces nationally-ranked USC on Saturday. The front-loaded schedule has slowed Carey's production down.
In four games, Carey has 36 caries for 156 yards, good for second-best on the team.
Before the Wildcats took on the Stanford Cardinal, Mike Stoops expressed the desire to get Carey more involved in Arizona's offensive plans.
"We have to get him more touches for sure," Stoops said. "He's too good of a player. He can run and make something happen for us."
Against Oregon, Carey had another breakout game. His carries doubled from six for 29 yards to 12 carries for 49 yards. Against Stanford and Oregon, the Antolin-Carey duo have averaged 5.1 yards per carry.
"I like what I saw from our run game tonight," said Stoops in his press conference after the game against the Ducks. "We just need a little more to balance out the pass game."
Carey also set an individual school record with nine kickoff returns for 197 yards, which erased Chuck Levy's 180 return yards against Ohio State in 1981.
Carey has put in extra work off the field, studying film, learning to pick up blitzes, knowing the checks when Arizona goes from run to pass and pass to run.
Once he perfects that, Chachere said, Carey's impact on the Arizona offense will increase and his natural running instincts will be evident.
"I teach him the blocking schemes and the pass schemes and the pass protections and running schemes," Chachere said. "And then his God-given ability takes over."