Basically, their veteran leader said, they’re a bunch of nobodies.

That’s just the way Cedric Peterson likes it.

“That’s OK with us,” said Peterson, the Arizona Wildcats’ only senior wide receiver — and only receiver who has started a Division I game. “We’re in here working, putting our heads down and just hope everybody’s ready for what they (are going) to see this upcoming season.”

Overlooked for most of his UA career, Peterson is the only known quantity in a group devoid of experience. Arizona has ample size and talent at receiver. The Wildcats restocked the position after losing four of their top five pass catchers. But in terms of career starts and catches beyond Peterson, well, there isn’t much to see here.

Peterson has 21 starts and 29 receptions, including a career-high 18 last season. As mentioned, none of the other 11 scholarship receivers — including wide receiver/tight end hybrid Zach Williams — has started a Division I game. They have a combined 17 receptions, including 14 by Stanley Berryhill III, who is still playing catchup after missing most of spring because of injury.

Five of the 11 are new to the team or the position, including converted quarterback Jamarye Joiner. Ten of the 11 are redshirt sophomores or younger, with the only exception being junior-college transfer Tayvian Cunningham, a junior who committed in late May.

None of which means Arizona can’t have a competent receiving corps as soon as the Aug. 24 opener at Hawaii.

The Wildcats experienced similar turnover at the position entering the 2017 season. Shun Brown was the only returnee with any substantial experience. The group turned out just fine.

Entering last season, few outside Tucson knew who Shawn Poindexter was. He ended up leading the team in receiving yards and tying the school record with 11 touchdowns.

“I don’t think anybody in this room would have thought Shawn Poindexter was who he was,” UA coach Kevin Sumlin said at Pac-12 Media Day last week. “He … was not highly recruited, was a volleyball player. We’ve got some guys in the wings.”

Four practices into training camp, it’s impossible to say who the top receivers will be. With so little experience and so many viable candidates, Sumlin and his staff might take a committee approach into the season.

But a handful of players have generated buzz this summer and might assume sizable roles alongside Peterson.

One is redshirt sophomore Brian Casteel. Casteel flashed potential as a freshman in 2017, appearing in 11 games and catching a 24-yard pass in the season-ending Foster Farms Bowl. He missed all of last season because of a back injury. The 6-footer has returned with a remade physique, weighing in at 195 pounds — down from 210 a year ago. Sumlin said Casteel had an “excellent” offseason.

“Brian’s always been a smooth-running guy,” Peterson said. “He came in his freshman year (and) impressed a lot of people. Had a minor setback. But now he’s back, ready to rock and roll.”

Joiner appeared in two games as a freshman last year, at quarterback. Stuck behind Khalil Tate in a crowded QB room, the Cienega High School product wanted to get on the field more. He and the coaches agreed that moving to wideout would create a clearer path. Joiner has displayed natural hands and explosive playmaking ability early in camp.

“He’s a quarterback, so he kinda already knows where to be at,” Peterson said. “He already knows what the quarterbacks want from a receiver. So he just brings another mindset.”

Peterson also has been impressed by freshmen Boobie Curry and Jalen Johnson. Curry enrolled in January, while Johnson arrived in June. Both possess developed enough frames to contribute immediately. Curry is listed at 6-2, 207, Johnson at 6-2, 199.

“They really came in with their heads on right, ready to compete,” Peterson said. “They really prepared themselves to be ready to play.”

That’s harder than it sounds. Peterson recalled his experience as a freshman in 2015. He had to adapt to a new playbook and faster, better defenders.

“It’s a bunch of new things going on,” Peterson said. “As soon as you get on the field, bullets start flying, and you kind of get lost in it a little bit.”

The Wildcats haven’t donned full pads yet — that’s coming Wednesday evening — and they’re still 3½ weeks from Hawaii. No matter how impressive the unproven but promising wideouts look now, the first true test is a long way off.

“We haven’t seen any anybody really play against actual opponents,” Tate said. “You don’t really know anything until you get to the first game.”

Donald redux?

When JB Brown shifted from defensive end to defensive tackle in spring, it was unclear how much he’d play inside. Was it just an experiment? A move made out of necessity? A part-time gig?

It appears to be none of the above. Brown said this week that he probably will spend the “majority” of his time as a 3-technique defensive tackle. He’s undersized for the role at between 255 and 260 pounds, but that could work to Brown’s advantage. The junior plans to use his quickness and speed to disrupt plays — copying the player he’s trying to model himself after.

That would be Aaron Donald, who, at 6-1, 280, is among the smallest defensive tackles in the NFL. He also has won the Defensive Player of the Year award the past two seasons. The Los Angeles Rams superstar led the league with 20.5 sacks in 2018.

“I had a lot to watch,” Brown said. “He’s just so fast and explosive.”

At 6-3, Brown has room to add bulk. But he wants to put on the “right weight,” he said. “I’m trying to look like Aaron Donald, not just get to 285.”

Brown began his UA career as a middle linebacker. He moved to defensive end during his freshman season and played there last year, compiling 30 tackles, including 7.5 for losses. When he was asked to move inside, he embraced the challenge.

“I’m on the field, trying to help my team win,” Brown said. “That’s all I care about.”

Extra points

  • Casteel was limited to side work during Tuesday’s practice. Defensive tackle Myles Tapusoa joined him about 10 minutes into drills.
  • Arizona used a new offensive line combination during the open portion of practice. The unit, from left to right, featured Paiton Fears, Josh Donovan, Robert Congel, Bryson Cain and Cody Creason. It appears that offensive line coach Kyle DeVan is cross-training certain players and trying out some different combos just in case.
  • Offensive lineman Jon Jacobs again did not dress or participate. Defensive end Dante Diaz-Infante also was out.
  • A Rams scout attended practice. Scouts from the Denver Broncos and Indianapolis Colts visited practice Monday.

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.