Wide receivers coach Tony Dews would be lying straight to your face if he said he wasn’t already thinking about next season.
Sure, his focus and energy is on Tuesday’s AdvoCare V100 Bowl against Boston College, but Dews often catches himself thinking about 2014.
“It’s hard not to get excited looking forward and say ‘holy cow, man,’ ” Dews said.
Can you blame him?
Dews will bring back six players who logged extensive playing time this season and will have Austin Hill back, plus transfers Cayleb Jones and DaVonte Neal.
Not to mention five receiver recruits who are all rated as three-star prospects or higher.
Coming off a season in which the receivers had an average — but nothing better than that — season, Dews’ expectations will be higher next season.
“Being with Coach (Rich) Rodriguez and understanding how he goes the through the transition at a new school and seeing it over the years, you always get excited,” Dews said. “We’re going to have a lot of talent at the receiver position next year.”
Here’s a breakdown of that group.
- Who they are: Samajie Grant, Trey Griffey, Johnny Jackson, Nate Phillips, David Richards and Garic Wharton.
- By the numbers: Combined, the six caught 140 of the 179 passes UA receivers hauled in this season. Grant and Phillips, a pair of true freshmen, led the way with 45 and 42 respectively.
- The lowdown: Grant and Phillips played in all 12 games this season and combined for 858 yards and eight touchdowns. Wharton, Richards and Jackson all battled injuries throughout the season and will use the offseason to heal up for 2014. Richards missed four games, first recovering from offseason foot surgery and then with a groin injury and could be a major factor next year. Griffey started for the first time against Washington State and was strong for the final three games.
- Quotable: “As a whole group, we need to become way stronger than we are. We’re young, but they need to live in that weight room. If that thing is open, they need to be in there. If it’s not open, they need to call (strength and conditioning coach Chris Allen) and see if he will open it up.” — Dews
- Who they are: Austin Hill, Cayleb Jones and DaVonte Neal.
- By the numbers: Hill had 1,364 yards in 2012 as a sophomore. Jones and Neal, a pair of four-star recruits out of high school, had a combined 2,138 yards during their senior years of high school.
- The lowdown: Hill of course missed the entire regular season recovering from a torn left ACL. He injured the knee during spring practice and is a long shot to play in the AdvoCare Bowl on Tuesday. Either way, he is expected to be fully healthy for next season and should be a big boost to an already experienced receiver group. Jones and Neal are both on the second stops of their college careers. Jones caught just two passes as a freshman at Texas and then decided to transfer after some off-field problems. Neal had just one catch at Notre Dame before transferring to Arizona and will be a help in the slot and in the return game.
- Quotable: “It’s exciting to look toward the future and see what we’re going to be able to do and see how we can contribute. As games went on, we’d see plays where we’re like ‘we could have made that’ or Austin says ‘I could have made that’ or ‘I did that last year and the corner did this last year.’ Every day we always talk about that.” — Jones.
- Who they are: Kaelin Deboskie, Cameron Denson, Tony Ellison, Jordan Morgan and Jace Whittaker.
- By the numbers: Salpointe Catholic High School teammates Deboskie and Denson combined for 128 catches for 2,417 yards and 34 touchdowns this past season for the Lancers.
- The lowdown: Denson is rated as a four-star recruit by the Scout.com recruiting service and the other four incoming receivers are all rated as three-stars. Denson, who also starred at cornerback for Salpointe this season, could play defense for the UA as well, but it seems likely he’ll start his career as a receiver. He has reportedly flirted with the idea of taking a couple of official visits in January, but seems like a lock to play at the UA. Deboskie, Ellison, Morgan and Whittaker will all have to fight for playing time as true freshmen with so many players in front of them.
- Quotable: “You know you’re going to build through recruiting, you just don’t know who it’s going to be or when it’s going to be. But being around this group of coaches, I know how hard we all work in recruiting and we all have been together for so long, we know what we’re looking for.” — Dews.