University of Arizona vs Colorado

Cedric Peterson - the only returning UA receiver with starting experience - displayed big-play ability vs. Colorado last year. 

The Star is counting down the 11 most valuable Wildcats on the Arizona football team entering the 2019 season. Here’s the latest installment.

No. 7: WR Cedric Peterson

Height/weight/year: 5-11, 195, redshirt senior

Key 2018 stats: 18 receptions, 268 yards, 14.9-yard average/catch, 4 TDs

Comment: Peterson is the last man standing.

Arizona has 12 scholarship wide receivers. Peterson is the only one who has started a game for the Wildcats.

Five UA receivers caught 18 or more passes last season. Peterson is the only one left.

Peterson played a supporting role in 2018, when he notched career bests in catches, yards and touchdowns. Now he has top billing at a position lacking in experience but teeming with youthful talent.

Before we explore how Peterson might contribute to the 2019 squad, let’s quickly review how we got here.

Last year’s top three receivers – Shun Brown, Tony Ellison and Shawn Poindexter – were redshirt seniors. They combined for 135 receptions, 1,939 yards and 23 touchdowns.

Peterson and Devaughn Cooper seemed best positioned to step into that void, but Cooper – who matched Peterson’s 18 receptions in '18 – lost his roster spot in May because of a violation of athletic-department policy.

That left only two receivers – Peterson and Stanley Berryhill III – with more than one career reception. Berryhill, who hauled in 14 passes last season, should play a significant role as a slot receiver. But the redshirt sophomore is still a pup compared to Peterson. Berryhill also missed spring practice because of an offseason injury.

“I had a lot of older dudes that set the standard higher for me, made sure that I was right,” he said in March. “My role now is to make sure … that we’re all on the same page — we’re all doing things that we’re supposed to do, on and off the field. Showing up on time for meetings, getting extra work in.”

Peterson brings a blue-collar mentality to a position that has produced more than its share of divas. He is a willing blocker who never complained when others had more passes come their way.

Peterson set career bests with four catches and 63 yards in an otherwise miserable loss at Utah last October. He then posted a career-high 72 yards three weeks later in a win against Colorado – including a career-long 57-yard catch-and-run.

Peterson caught the ball at the CU 46, spun away from a defender and outraced multiple Buffaloes to the end zone. The play had UA followers reconsidering Peterson’s potential: Maybe he could become something more than a possession receiver?

Peterson probably doesn’t have as high a ceiling as some of the other wideouts. He isn’t as big as Tre Adams (6-3, 195), Boobie Curry (6-2, 206), Drew Dixon (6-3, 215), Thomas Marcus Jr. (6-2, 2-5) or Zach Williams (6-3, 215). Peterson isn’t as twitchy as Berryhill or Jaden Mitchell.

But Peterson easily has the highest floor of any returning or incoming wideout. He’s smart and sure-handed. He’s going to execute his assignments. When Arizona absolutely has to convert on third down, it’s easy to envision Peterson being Khalil Tate’s most trusted outlet.

Speaking of Tate, he and Peterson apparently have a connection off the field – a relationship that should enhance their chemistry on it. Aside from his own self-improvement to-do list, one of the biggest tasks Tate faces this season is operating the offense efficiently with an almost entirely new receiving corps.

Peterson’s proficiency and professionalism should prove invaluable in that endeavor.

MOST VALUABLE WILDCATS OF 2019

Contact sports reporter Michael Lev at 573-4148 or mlev@tucson.com. On Twitter @michaeljlev 

Reporter

Michael is an award-winning journalist who has been covering sports professionally since the early '90s. He started at the Star in 2015 after spending 15 years at The Orange County Register. Michael is a graduate of Northwestern University.