Tag:Juron Criner
Posted on: July 1, 2011 11:30 am
Edited on: July 1, 2011 11:43 am

Report: Criner suffered "erratic episode"

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

What, exactly, is happening with Arizona star receiver Juron Criner? The rumor mill has been swirling in double-time ever since this week's unconfirmed report that Criner's status for the 2011 season was yet-to-be-determined, thanks to an "undisclosed medical issue."

Phoenix-area sports anchor Bruce Cooper (of the local NBC affiliate) elected to confront the rumors head-on in a blog post for azcentral.com, writing that -- contrary to message-board postings and the like -- a close family member of Criner's has fallen seriously ill, rather than Criner himself. But that doesn't mean everything on Criner's end is necessarily fine, physically, according to Cooper:
A little over two weeks ago Criner experienced a very erratic episode.  He was hospitalized while undergoing neurological testing.  Could his erratic behavior been a result of the overwhelming news about his close family member?  Or could there be something deeper and more serious that caused him to require hospitalization and testing?  Fair questions, but the University of Arizona will keep the answers confidential.  And rightly so ...
[Y]es, there is a real possibility that Criner will miss this season entirely.  But time and doctors will play a large role in determining that.
As for the veracity of Cooper's report, we suggest viewing both it and any information regarding Criner's condition with some degree of skepticism until either the university or Criner himself offers confirmation of some sort. (As of now, Criner has been silent, and the school has offered nothing beyond "no comment," for privacy reasons.)

But at this point, it seems likely that something serious (and unfortunate) is happening with both Criner and his family. And in that event, we wish both he and his loved ones a quick and full recovery.

Category: NCAAF
Posted on: June 29, 2011 12:51 pm
Edited on: June 29, 2011 2:14 pm

Report: medical issue could cost Criner season

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

It's far too soon to panic, but Arizona could be staring down the barrel of a major, major blow to its 2011 hopes.

That's if you listen to Arizona Daily Star columnist Greg Hansen, who dropped this little bombshell into a piece about Canyon Del Oro High School's Pac-12 recruits (emphasis added):
[Wildcat running back signee Ka'Deem] Carey's availability somewhat offsets concerns that All-Pac-10 receiver Juron Criner might not be available for training camp in August. Criner's status for the 2011 season remains uncertain because of undisclosed medical reasons.
To reiterate how big a deal this might be (and how surprised we are to see a lead like this buried), Criner isn't just your average All-Pac-12 wideout, if there are such things. We're talking about the nation's seventh-leading receiver a year ago with 1,244 yards, a CBSSports.com second-team All-American, a first-round lock in next year's NFL Draft and the Wildcats' leading receiver a year ago by more than 30 receptions and 700 yards.

If Criner really does miss the entire 2011 season, this is a hammer blow for a team that's already struggling mightily with injuries. (How mightily? Try four different ACL tears.)

As for the likelihood of that scenario, as we said, the time for the wailing and gnashing of teeth from Wildcat fans isn't at hand just yet. But it doesn't look good. The Mercury News's Jon Wilner reports (in response to Hansen) that Criner withdrew from a recent ESPN "publicity tour" over what was termed a "family matter." He added this:
I heard last night that it’s not an injury, but it’s serious.
If it is, so are the offensive issues suddenly confronting Mike Stoops' football team.

Posted on: March 22, 2011 9:21 am

Spring Practice Primer: Arizona

Posted by Bryan Fischer

College Football has no offseason. Every coach knows that the preparation for September begins now, in Spring Practice. So we here at the Eye on College Football will get you ready as teams open spring ball with our Spring Practice Primers. Today, we look at Arizona, who started spring practice Monday.

Spring Practice Question: Who will emerge and help restock the offensive and defensive lines?

If starting quarterback Nick Foles takes his lineman out for dinner this spring, he might be doing so more to get to know them than he is to get some dinner after practice. That's the state of the Arizona offensive line, which loses all five starters to graduation and needs to be sorted out if Foles is going to have any time to throw to one of the most talented group of wide outs in the Pac-12.

A rebuilding job is nothing new for head coach Mike Stoops. Entering his eighth spring practice with the Wildcats, Stoops has taken the once downtrodden program and turned it into a consistent winner, with the team coming off their third straight winning season for the first time in over a decade. The colorful (usually a bright shade of red) Stoops will use spring practices to help forget last year's disastrous ending however, when the team lost their last five games of the year after a promising start.

Attention is primarily on the offensive line and learning to mesh with new offensive coordinator/line coach Robert Anae. The former offensive coordinator at BYU for the last five years, Anae won't have to change too much of the terminology of the offense and can instead focus on who meshes well along the line. Vaughn Dotsy figures to be the front runner at guard having previously been a starter but injury issues have held back his playing time. Kyle Quinn had a solid audition for the center spot after playing well in the bowl game last year and as the primary backup for the past two seasons. Outside of those two however, the rest of the line will be quite green. Redshirt freshman Mickey Baucus and Fabbians Ebbele figure to be in the mix for the other spots and are talented enough to play early in their careers.

If the line can gel during the spring and protect Foles, the Wildcats' offense could be one to watch. Foles' primary backup Matt Scott is expected to redshirt during the season so the spring will be a time for senior Bryson Beirne to get significant playing time to prepare for the fall. Early enrollee Daxx Garman will get a few looks but he didn't play his senior year in high school due to transfer issues.

Any of the quarterbacks on the roster will certainly like what the weapons they see around them. Running back Keola Antolin is back as the starter and Greg Nwoko should see his fair share of carries at the position this spring as well. Juron Criner headlines a talented group of wide receivers that may be the best returning group in the Pac-12. Eligible for the fall is Texas transfer Dan Buckner, who provides a big target for Foles in the red zone and caught 45 passes with the Longhorns as a true freshman. Freshmen Austin Hill and Tyler Slavin will also try and push for playing time this spring.

Though the defensive line won't have to replace the entire front four, they do need to find two new starters at defensive end to replace the terrific and underrated Ricky Elmore and Brooks Reed. Dominique Austin, Mohammed Usman and Dan Pettinato will all get a shot but it will be hard to match the productivity Elmore and Reed had during their time in Tucson. Luckily, they'll have several quality defensive tackles rotating in next to them, led by redshirt sophomores Justin Washington and Sione Tuihalamaka. Washington racked up six sacks last season and will be key in getting a strong pass rush going. Keep an eye out for Aiulua Fanene and Saneilla Fuimaono at defensive tackle to provide the big bodies the Wildcats need in the trenches.

However the defensive line shapes up, the linebacker unit playing behind them returns all three starters and figure to mix in several younger players this spring to provide depth. The secondary will need to replace both safeties but has impressive, young talent at corner looking to hone their skills this spring. You can probably pencil in Adam Hall as one of the safeties this spring and Robert Golden, Trevin Wade, Shaquille Richardson and Jonathan McKnight figure to make the battle for the corner spots interesting.

There's a lot of talent on Arizona's roster for this spring and it's up to Stoops and several of his new staff members to figure out what to do with it and correct some of the issues that plagued them down the stretch last season. Things are always made easier when most of your skill position talent returns but that won't mean anything if the offensive line doesn't get sorted out this spring. 

Luckily (or unluckily depending on your point of view) for Stoops, he'll be able to conduct business under the radar as almost all the attention in Tucson is on the basketball team's run in the NCAA tournament.

Click here for more Spring Practice Primers
Posted on: December 30, 2010 1:55 am

Bowl Grades: Alamo Bowl


Offense: The Cowboys weren't actually quite as dominant as the scoreboard (or their reputation) would suggest in the first half, punting four times and getting 14 of their 17 points via a 61-yard thunderbolt to Justin Blackmon and a short-field score following a muffed punt. After three quarters, they still hadn't even cracked 260 total yards, and their final total of 313 fell well below their nation-leading 537-yard average.

But with the Poke defense playing the way it was (and the Arizona offense helping OSU out the way it was), the most important thing for the Cowboy attack was simply to take advantage of its opportunities and not make mistakes, and that they did. Both red zone opportunities were converted into touchdowns, Brandon Weeden (who punctuated a pedestrian-looking stat line with several NFL-quality throws) didn't throw an interception, the Poke ballcarriers never fumbled, and Lou Groza Award finalist Dan Bailey went 3-of-3 with makes from 40, 50, and 44 yards. Combine that with the usual smattering of brilliance from Blackmon -- who finished his sophomore season with 100 yards and at least one touchdown receiving in all 12 games he played, not to mention two more highlight-reel scores in this one -- and it was more than enough to cruise past the bumbling Wildcats. GRADE: A-

The book on the Cowboy defense was that it could slow down most running games, but would really struggle against a competent passing game, and between quarterback Nick Foles and All-American receiver Juron Criner that's what Arizona appeared to have.

But that wasn't the way the game played out at all. In the secondary, the much-maligned Poke defensive backs picked off Foles three times, held him to a mediocre 5.6 yards per attempt (that still flatters his performance), and scored as many touchdowns from his passes -- thanks to a Markelle Martin pick-six -- as Arizona did. Criner grabbed nine receptions, but none for longer than 12 yards. Meanwhile, up front, Foles was sacked five times and hurried twice that many times at least. The end result was that a pass defense that appeared to be the most vulnerable part of the Cowboy team was its most vital part in San Antonio.

That's not to say the Cowboys didn't allow their fair share of yards; over a span of six drives in the second and third quarters, Arizona racked up 194 yards and crossed midfield five times. But thanks to the stiffening OSU defense, they scored fewer points on those drives (three) than the Cowboys did (six, thanks to Martin). As defensive performances go, it was just this side of dominating. GRADE: A-

Coaching: The Cowboy staff of head man Mike Gundy, now ex-offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen, and defensive coordinator Bill Young have a collective reputation for aggressiveness, and they more than lived up to it Wednesday night. Holgorsen tested the 'Cat defense deep and with various misdirection plays, Young dialed up a number of successful blitzes, and Gundy's willingness to go for a 4th-and-2 near midfield up big in the fourth quarter paid off with an Arizona penalty and, eventually, the icing touchdown. The Oklahoma State staff showed by far the more aggressive coaching philosophy, and were rewarded with a far, far more aggressive performance from their team. GRADE: A-


Give the Wildcats some credit: with 369 yards and all the aforementioned forays into OSU territory, it's not like they didn't at least give themselves opportunities. But don't give them much -- or any, if you like -- since they squandered virtually all of them via a variety of mistakes. There was Foles, ruining Arizona's first threatening drive with a one-hopper to an open receiver on 4th-and-5 and throwing all three of his interceptions across midfield. There was the timidity in the running game, with the three Wildcat backs averaging just 3.5 yards on their 28 carries. There were the drops from the receivers, with even Criner joining in. There were the seven penalties, the five sacks, the four total turnovers. There was embattled kicker Alex Zendejas missing from 47 and 34 yards.

In short, there were far more shots aimed at the Wildcats' own feet than at their opponents in the Alamo Dome. When one final consolation touchdown with under five minutes to play -- on Foles' best pass of the night, a long arcing bomb to Richard Morrison -- was called back for a hold along the offensive line, you couldn't have asked for a better single-play summation of the Wildcat offense's night. That kind of sloppiness was simply never going to fly opposite a unit as explosive as Oklahoma State's. GRADE: D+

Defense: Frankly, given the quality of the opposition they were facing, you can't hang the outcome on the Arizona defense. With Weeden playing as well as he was and Blackmon being Blackmon (to say nothing of the likes of Kendall Hunter), to hold the Cowboys to 313 yards and three offensive touchdowns -- one of those coming on a turnover-aided short field -- is quite the accomplishment. A forced turnover somewhere would have been nice, but these Wildcats (active cornerback Joseph Perkins in particular) have nothing to hang their heads about. GRADE: B+

Coaching: Already down 23-7 with less than 10 minutes to play in the third quarter, Mike Stoops faced a decision: go for it on a 4th-and-5 from the Oklahoma State 30, knowing that his team would need all the points they could get given the potency of the OSU offense and the deficit his team faced, or try a 47-yard field goal with a kicker whose confidence had to have been badly shaken from the botched extra points that cost the Wildcats their rivalry game with Arizona State. That Stoops chose the "safe" route of kicking the highly-unlikely field goal (whcih badly missed, of course) tells you all you need to know about the halfhearted, play-not-to-lose, roll-over-and-get-crushed attitude Arizona approached this game with. For all his sideline bluster, Stoops didn't show the kind of actual fieriness and conviction his team needed. (And hey, that's not even mentioning leaving two timeouts on the board at the end of the first half while Stoops raged about a pass interference call.) GRADE: D

Like so many other bowls this season, the game was firmly in one team's grasp by the end of the first half and entirely out of reach by the time the fourth quarter rolled around. Yawn. Again. At least Weeden-to-Blackmon was worth a look. Grade: C-

Posted on: December 23, 2010 3:47 pm

CBS Bowl Bonanza: Alamo Bowl

Posted by Jerry Hinnen as part of the blog's Bowl Bonanza series. For tonight's Poinsettia Bowl preview, click here .

The Basics: Oklahoma State (10-2) vs. Arizona (7-5), Dec. 29, 9:15 EST

Why You Should Watch: Because it's the Alamo Bowl, silly, the same game that gave us Texas Tech's stirring comeback against Michigan State last year, that saw Northwestern just miss out on their first bowl win since 19-dickety-two against Missouri in overtime, that unleashed this madness on us at the end of Michigan-Nebraska ... all in the past five years. And this year, we've got maybe the bowl season's best matchup of wide receivers in Justin Blackmon vs. Juron Criner, the carnival-worthy facial calisthenics of Mike Stoops, and one final chance to see Dana Holgorsen's flying circus at Oklahoma State before he takes his act to Morgantown. That ought to be enough.

Keys to Victory for Oklahoma State: More than maybe any school in the country other than Michigan, the Cowboys win by simply outscoring their opposition. With Holgorsen's unit ranked No. 1-with-a-bullet in the FBS total offense (and a robust third in scoring) but the Poke defense coming in 90th (and yielding a combined 98 points in their two losses), the pressure is permanently on the Cowboy attack to put points on the board. Anything less than 30-35 points, and the Cowboys will be cutting it awfully close.

The good news is that with arguably the best running back-wide receiver combo in the country in All-Americans Kendall Hunter and Blackmon (not to mention revelatory quarterback Brandon Weeden and his 32-to-13 touchdown-to-interception ratio), even the well-coached Wildcats may not be able to stop from Oklahoma State from hitting that mark. The bad news is that with as much time to prepare as Stoops and his staff will have, it seems unlikely the Cowboys will manage a 40- or 50-point explosion, either. That means the Cowboys will have to come up with at least a few stops, and that starts up front with a run defense that actually finished an impressive 27th in the country in yards-per-carry allowed at 3.57. Leading that charge was first team All-Big 12 senior linebacker Orie Lemon, who led the team in tackles and tackles-for-loss, but he was helped by an experienced (three senior starters) and deep defensive line that had four different members record at least 4 tackles-for-loss.

The front seven will have to be at its best to keep the pressure off of a secondary that ranked 115th in the country in defending the pass, but if the Cowboys can force just a handful of third-and-longs,even their defensive backs (particularly senior corner Andrew McGee)   should be able to make enough plays to let Weeden, Hunter, and Blackmon win the game.

Keys to Victory for Arizona: On paper, the Wildcats don't have a whole lot going for them in this game. They come in riding a four-game losing streak that dropped them to 7-5, with the Cowboys at a stout 10-2; they have further to travel and will do so with dramatically less fan support; their last bowl "effort" was the 33-0 debacle against Nebraska in last year's Holiday Bowl.

But they do have Criner, a 6'4", 210-pound beast who quietly racked up 1,197 yards to finish as the nation's seventh-leading receiver. They also have Nick Foles, who equally quietly led the Pac-10 in passing yardage at 291 yards per-game, completed 67 percent of his passes, and finished in the national top 30 in both yards per-attempt and QB rating. And there's plenty more targets where Criner came from; eight different Wildcats finished with 20 or more receptions. Given the weakness of the Cowboy secondary, a huge night from Foles, Criner, and the rest of the 'Cat passing game could allow Arizona to keep up with an offense even as explosive as the Pokes.

And defying the West Coast stereotype, the Wildcats are also perfectly competent on defense, finishing as one of only 27 teams to allow fewer than 5 yards per-play. The triumvirate of Ricky Elmore, Brooks Reed, and Justin Washington (23.5 combined sacks, 33 tackles-for-loss) give them a dynamic defensive line that should be capable of slowing Hunter's interior running. If they can do that, a well-prepared back seven plays over their heads against Blackmon and Weeden, and Foles goes off, the Wildcats could very well pull off the upset.

The Alamo Bowl is like: the onslaught at the Alamo itself, at least when either offense is on the field; the overmatched and outmanned secondaries are going to come under a hail of football fire from their better-armed opponents, and will hope to simply survive until their compatriots on the offensive side of the ball can come to their rescue. If the quarterbacks and receivers play up to their capabilities, this year's Alamo Bowl will -- like its namesake -- definitely be something to remember.

Posted on: October 15, 2010 3:18 am

Conflict of interest in replay for Arizona?

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Oregon State defeated Arizona 29-27 last week, and the final margin doesn't accurately reflect how well the Beavers outpaced the Wildcats over the course of the evening. Sure, Nick Foles' 440 yards of passing were massive (that's literally a quarter of a mile, in one game), but Arizona never led, nor did they show much defensive acuity -- even after James Rodgers went down with that horrific knee injury.

So how did the Wildcats hang close, exactly? Some of it was obviously their own considerable skill, but the Portland Tribune has alleged that another reason is that the Wildcats had a thumb on the scale -- namely, with a partisan in the replay booth. 

Here's the Tribune's assessment of the situation:

The replay official [was] a Tucson citizen, an Arizona grad and, according to one source, a donor to the school’s athletic department.

The man working Saturday was Jim Fogltance, a former Pac-10 football crew chief who earned his degree from the UA in 1967.

Among the disputed plays:

• Rodgers’ first-quarter catch of a low ball that was ruled a reception by the game officials. After review, the call was overturned.

• Rodgers’ 3-yard catch later in the quarter that was ruled a touchdown by the game officials. After review, the call was overturned.

• A first-quarter bomb caught by Arizona’s Juron Criner that was ruled a touchdown by game officials. It appeared that Criner landed on the 1-yard-line and rolled into the end zone. After review, the call was upheld.

• Then, a catch by an Arizona receiver — similar to the Rodgers’ play — that was ruled a reception by game officials. Fogltance chose not to review the play.

It's also my recollection that the play preceding the touchdown that put Oregon State up 23-13 was itself a legitimate score, but that replay officials ruled Jacquizz Rodgers out of bounds at the 1-yard line when he had actually scored. I'd like to be able to prove that, and I freely admit that I may be wrong -- I watched 13 hours of football that day, after all -- but there are no legal ways (and no trustworthy illegal ways) for me to re-watch that portion of the game to double-check. That seems incredible in this day and age of information sharing, but this is what happens when media access guidelines are excessively restrictive. Anyway, it's a moot point since Oregon State scored on the very next play.

Of the four calls mentioned, the Criner "touchdown" was easily the most egregiously bad decision; Criner was clearly down while the ball was feet (not inches) away from crossing the plane. Granted, the odds of scoring a touchdown on first-and-goal from the 1 are pretty awesome -- there's literally no better position for scoring other than "standing in the end zone and holding the football while the referee signals a touchdown" -- but it's not an absolute certainty, and Oregon State at least deserved the right to make Arizona earn that last yard, right?

And really, this would all be a non-story if it weren't for the fact that the replay official is -- and there's really no other way to put it -- an Arizona man. He lives in Tucson, he's a UA grad, and he's apparently a donor. Do we know that these facts swayed his ability to call the game impartially? No, of course not. They probably didn't affect it at all. Probably. And we can't know for sure, because those confounding factors exist, and the mere appearance of a conflict of interest is enough to compromise the integrity of the officiating in the eyes of many. That mistake's on the Pac-10, not Fogltance, who never should have been put in such a position to begin with. His work affects the game, after all, and it would make a lot of Pac-10 fans happier if the replay official didn't have any incentive -- acted upon or not -- to swing any calls one way or another.

Posted on: October 15, 2010 3:10 am
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