College football players never forget the first time they run with the rest of their teammates out of the tunnel and onto the field.
It becomes as ingrained into their mind as a first kiss.
And every college player wants that first time to really count. In other words, running out and then standing on the sideline isn’t as fun as actually getting to play.
The Arizona Wildcats have several players who will run out of the tunnel Friday night and see some extended game action.
“We have an idea of who we’re prepping to play Friday night,” UA coach Rich Rodriguez said.
The Wildcats have eight true freshmen listed on their depth chart, and at least a couple more could play.
The biggest impact will be felt at linebacker. Sir Thomas Jackson (a 12-game starter), C.J. Dozier and Dakota Conwell all played in at least nine games last season. Yet, none were on the UA’s first depth chart of the season.
Instead, true freshmen Scooby Wright, Derrick Turituri, DeAndre’ Miller and Jake Matthews were.
Wright could start; Turituri and Miller should see plenty of action and Matthews will try to fight his way into the rotation.
“For those freshmen to come in and do what they’ve done just shows how bright our future can be,” senior linebacker Marquis Flowers said. “It’s surprised me. They have exceptional talent.
“I can’t wait to see what they do this year and what they do in the future.”
Flowers won’t have to wait much longer to see what they can do this year.
It won’t just be the linebackers.
Here are five true freshmen we envision playing Friday and getting a shot to either start or play meaningful downs this season.
1. Nate Phillips
Position: Wide receiver
What he’ll do: Phillips is listed as a possible starter at one of the slot receiver positions and is also listed as the main punt and kick returner.
The lowdown: It will either be Phillips or sophomore Johnny Jackson who starts at one of the slot positions opposite senior Terrence Miller. If he doesn’t start, Phillips, a Chandler Basha High School product, will still be on the field plenty Friday night.
Phillips also proved in fall camp to be one of the UA’s most dangerous weapons in the return game and has earned the starting role there.
2. Scooby Wright
What he’ll do: Wright, a native of Windsor, Calif., will surely see time on special teams and is in competition with sophomore Keoni Bush-Loo to be the starter at strong-side linebacker.
The lowdown: Listed at 6-feet-1-inch and 230 pounds, Wright is a tad undersized for a linebacker, but has impressed his coaches and teammates with his speed and toughness. Flowers said Wright’s best skill is his blitzing ability and speed off the edge, which enables him to get to the quarterback.
3. Samajie Grant
Position: Wide receiver
What he’ll do: Grant isn’t listed as one of the returners on the depth chart but did work there during fall camp. He’ll also see plenty of snaps at wide receiver. Listed at 5-9, 173, Grant is a vintage Rodriguez-type receiver with his speed and ability to find gaps in opposing defenses.
The lowdown: Grant or redshirt freshman Clive Georges will start at one of the outside receiver spots opposite of junior Garic Wharton. Grant had a strong camp, but also benefited from the UA being shallow in talent at the receiver position.
4. Devin Holiday
What he’ll do: Holiday will be a special teams contributor like Wright and also will be in the mix at cornerback. The San Diego native also is listed as the backup at left corner to junior Jonathan McKnight.
The lowdown: Cornerbacks coach David Lockwood has said several times this camp he’d like to decrease the number of plays his starters play and get the backups into the game more. Coaches like Holiday’s ball skills and ability to jump routes.
5. DeAndre’ Miller
What he’ll do: Miller is listed as one of Flowers’ backup at the weak-side linebacker spot and, like Wright and Holiday, will play on special teams.
The lowdown: The Buckeye High School product has prototypical linebacker size at 6-3, 225 and defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel said he still has pounds to put on. The job to be Flowers’ primary backup is between Miller and fellow true freshman Jake Matthews.
Other true freshmen who could play: DL Luca Bruno; WR Aaron Lacombe; LB Jake Matthews; S David Price; LB Derrick Turituri.