Connor Brewer hadn’t been in Tucson for one week before his coaches starting ribbing him.
In a new town with new teammates and new coaches, the quarterback was relying — maybe a little too much — on a familiar face: wide receiver Cayleb Jones.
“The first few practices he was here, I was teasing him because Connor was looking for (Jones) every time whether he was open or not,” coach Rich Rodriguez said with a smile. “I think that was his comfort zone.”
It’s easy to see why.
Brewer and Jones spent a year together at the University of Texas as teammates, and a friendship that had started two years prior continued to grow.
But after being buried on the depth chart, Brewer decided to transfer to Arizona in late July, just days before fall camp began.
Four days before Brewer committed to Arizona, Jones announced his intention to transfer from Texas.
The wide receiver was charged with felony aggravated assault for allegedly breaking the jaw of a Texas tennis player in February. Two months later, those charges were reduced to a misdemeanor. Nevertheless, Jones decided a fresh start was needed.
Brewer gave him his sales pitch, as did Rodriguez and assistant Charlie Ragle. Two weeks later, Jones officially committed to the Wildcats and joined the team in the middle of fall practice.
“Now that I’ve been here and love it, it’s easy to say, ‘Oh yeah, I would have come even if Connor wasn’t here,’ ” Jones said. “But I came here really knowing only one person, and that was Connor. So he definitely played a huge part in it.”
Brewer added: “Obviously I would want someone like that in this program, but I wanted him to find the best opportunity he could. He had a lot of great offers, and I’m lucky we got him here.”
After having to sit out the 2013 season, both will be back on the field this year. Jones will be one of the UA’s primary weapons at wide receiver, and Brewer is in the middle of the competition to be the starting quarterback.
How they met
Brewer, a Scottsdale Chaparral High School product, was the first member of the 2012 recruiting class to commit to Texas. The Longhorns coaches gave him the assignment of touching base with some of their other key recruits on social media to help bring them to Austin.
One of the first recruits he struck up a relationship with was Jones, when the two began playing Xbox together. With Brewer in Scottsdale and Jones in his hometown of Austin, the two synced up their video game systems and would play for hours.
Their game of choice was “Call of Duty,” with Brewer usually getting the upper hand.
The players began talking on the phone and texting, finally meeting in February of their junior year during a recruiting visit at Texas.
“By the time we actually met, I felt like we had known each other forever,” Brewer said.
A few weeks after the recruiting trip, Jones joined Brewer and committed to the Longhorns.
As was the case with his decision to transfer to Arizona, Brewer was a big reason Jones decided to commit to UT.
“Connor is the funniest dude I know,” Jones said. “From junior year of high school to now, getting to know him has been great. He’s been a great guy to me. Seeing how our relationship has grown has been big, and I think it’s more than just football.
“Both of us have had adversity in our lives the last two years, and we’ve both been there for each other.”
Seen as a can’t-miss prospect out of Chaparral, Brewer had big plans when he committed to Texas.
The quarterback led the Firebirds to three state championships and threw for more than 3,000 yards and 100 career touchdowns. He went 41-2 in three seasons as the starter and was ranked the seventh-best quarterback prospect in the nation by ESPN.com.
Eager to get a head start, Brewer enrolled early at Texas, moving to Austin after the first semester of his senior season at Chaparral. He participated in spring drills with the Longhorns and redshirted in 2012.
After spring ball in 2013, Brewer still hadn’t worked his way up on the depth chart, and didn’t see much of a future for himself with the Longhorns.
“When you go into a program at first, your mindset isn’t, ‘Oh, I’m going to end up transferring from here,’ ” Brewer said. “That’s the place you want to stay at and thrive at. But obviously things didn’t work out. Having good friends like Cayleb during a time like that is important. You need someone to talk to about stuff other than football, and Cayleb has always been there for me in that regard.”
Jones needed Brewer at that time, too. The son of Robert Jones, a linebacker for 10 seasons in the NFL, the younger Jones was as highly touted a recruit coming out of high school as Brewer. He played in the 2012 Under Armour All-America game with current UA receiver DaVonte Neal.
Jones was rated as the third-best receiver in the country by the Scout.com recruiting service, and he was a five-star prospect.
Unlike Brewer, Jones played as a true freshman — barely. He caught two passes for 35 yards the entire season behind a deep, veteran group of receivers.
After his frustrating freshman season, he then had his off-field issues to deal with.
“A lot of people say when you go through things, certain people distance themselves from the person that is going through it,” Jones said. “I can’t say that for Connor. He’s been there for me every step of the way, whether it’s on the field or off of it. I think we both have the same goals. …
“We want to have fun and enjoy our lives.”
A fresh start
The struggles at Texas are now in the rearview mirror for both Brewer and Jones.
When Jones arrived on campus, the two got an apartment together. They still have those “Call of Duty” battles — Jones can hold his own now — and spend far more time together than apart.
“I really never think about it, but I’m pretty much always with him,” said Jones, who spent Thanksgiving in Scottsdale with Brewer’s family.
Added Brewer, “We’re together quite a bit. We stay out of trouble. We just play video games, play basketball, do what normal college students do.”
On the field, they’re both hoping to provide an impact for the Wildcats.
Jones should give the UA a dimension it hasn’t had in years. At 6 feet 3 inches and 204 pounds, the receiver has the ability to go up and corral deep passes and has the speed to make plays once he has the ball.
That was on display Friday during a scrimmage at Arizona Stadium, where he had his way with more than one UA defensive back.
“Just because I transferred doesn’t mean I can’t go somewhere and ball,” Jones said. “I can say this on behalf of all the receivers, because I know it’s true — we want to take this program to the next level. As an individual and as a team, I want to shine.”
Brewer isn’t assured of playing time like Jones seems to be.
The quarterback is competing with Jesse Scroggins, Anu Solomon, Jerrard Randall and Nick Isham for the starting spot.
“In high school, he was a tough, competitive guy that seemed to have a great feel for the game,” Rodriguez said of Brewer. “I thought he was a real accurate thrower. And he’s learned since he’s been here. I think he has a real grasp of what we’re doing. The bullets are live now, and he’s right in the middle of the competition.”