Pac-12 fans cringed at the thought of facing quarterbacks such as Willie Tuitama, Nick Foles and Matt Scott each year when their team played the Arizona Wildcats. While none has flourished into an NFL starter, the Wildcats consistently have had reliable quarterback play. Every year Arizona is able to insert a quarterback who becomes a household name to Pac-12 fans. In its up-tempo offense, Arizona’s quarterbacks have flourished, putting up big time numbers on their way to winning seasons. While Arizona is off to a 3-0 start this season, its quarterback has gone unknown throughout the Pac-12. B.J. Denker has gotten Arizona off to a hot start, but who is he, and should Husky fans be worried?
Nicknamed “Vanilla Vick” due to his dual threat ability, Denker was a football and basketball star at North High School in Torrance, Calif. After graduating in 2009, Denker attended Cerritos Junior College in Norwalk, Calif., where he served as a backup in 2009 and redshirted in 2010. Denker then flourished in his one year as a starter at Cerritos in 2011, passing for 2,139 yards and 31 touchdowns as well as rushing for seven scores. He earned Northern Conference first-team honors and offensive MVP, along with CCCFA first-team All-California honors. After Cerritos, Denker signed with Arizona as a late addition to the 2012 class.
In his first year at Arizona, Denker served as backup to Matt Scott. He appeared in six games at quarterback and earned his first start against Colorado. Denker threw for 3 touchdowns and ran for one in his limited playing time.
Going into the 2013 season, the starting quarterback job for the Wildcats was wide open. To start fall camp, Denker was in a battle with six other quarterbacks including one time Husky recruit Jesse Scroggins. Denker won the starting job in fall camp and hasn’t looked back since.
Off to a 3-0 start as a starter, Denker has showed why he has earned the “Vanilla Vick” nickname, showcasing both his arm and his legs. So far through three games, Denker has more rushing attempts than completions, and has gotten into the endzone via foot three more times than he has through the air. Denker has fit right in with the up-tempo offense at Arizona, and his running ability makes him a headache for many opposing coaches. While passing isn’t his strong point, Denker has been able to complete 56 percent of his passes and has yet to turn the ball over.
Denker will face his first real test this weekend when the Wildcats face the No. 16 Washington Huskies in Husky Stadium. Denker has yet to face a quality opponent in his first three games, and will have his hands full with the Huskies and one of the biggest home-field advantages in college football. Washington hasn’t gotten off to a 4-0 start since 2001, and is eager to get a win and momentum before a tough stretch against Stanford and Oregon. In his first start in a hostile environment, it will be critical for Denker to control the ball and not have any turnovers if the Wildcats want to take down the Huskies.
If “Vanilla Vick” is able to take down the Huskies, neither he nor the Wildcats will be much of a mystery anymore.