Who says two-a-days are a thing of the past?
With the Arizona Wildcats set to start spring practice on Monday, March 18, we’re going to get you ready by previewing two positions per day this week. We’ll start on offense before working our way to the other side of the ball.
Key returnees: Tre Adams (6-3, 190, RS FR), Jailen Bailey (5-10, 163, RS FR), Stanley Berryhill (5-9, 172, RS SO), Brian Casteel (6-0, 210, RS SO), Devaughn Cooper (5-10, 175, RS JR), Drew Dixon (6-3, 210, RS SO), Thomas Marcus Jr. (6-2, 203, RS FR), Jake Peters (6-4, 222, RS FR), Cedric Peterson (5-11, 193, RS SR), Zach Williams (6-3, 224, RS FR), Bryce Wolma (6-3, 252, JR)
Key newcomers: Boobie Curry* (6-2, 197, FR), Jalen Johnson (6-3, 183, FR), Jaden Mitchell* (6-0, 180, FR)
The big question: Is wide receiver truly an area of concern, as it appears to be on paper?
Lots of turnover here, and lots of inexperience in its wake.
We listed 11 wide receivers — 12 if you include Williams, who came to Arizona as a tight end but got looks at wideout in practice. Six of them — seven with Williams — are freshmen or redshirt freshmen. And it’s not as if redshirt sophomores Casteel (who missed 2018 because of injury) or Dixon have much in the way of game reps.
Arizona’s receiving corps was stocked with veterans a year ago: redshirt seniors Shun Brown, Tony Ellison and Shawn Poindexter, plus redshirt junior Peterson. They combined for 153 receptions, 2,207 yards and 27 touchdowns. They were productive and reliable.
With all but Peterson having used up their eligibility, it’s fair to ask: Now what?
The receiving corps will have a different look, no doubt. The lack of experience is a tad worrisome. But it’s not as if the position is devoid of talent.
Peterson isn’t a burner, but he has a connection with Khalil Tate and sneakily averaged 14.9 yards per catch last year while converting four of his 18 receptions into touchdowns. He’s going to do his job, and do it well.
The coaching staff obviously likes Berryhill, who was awarded a scholarship in training camp. Berryhill was the only receiver besides the four veterans to catch a TD pass last season. He finished with a 14-218-2 line — and came within inches of hauling in a Tate pass in the waning moments against Arizona State that would have changed the outcome of that game and the tenor of the offseason. (It was a difficult, contested catch in the end zone but one Berryhill could have made.)
Berryhill is the most likely successor to Brown as the primary slot receiver. The Tucson product possesses similar quickness and twitchiness.
As for the Poindexter role, Curry is the closest thing in terms of size and physicality. The Wildcats’ highest-rated high school recruit, Curry put up insane numbers as a junior when he was fully healthy: 122 receptions, 1,576 yards and 18 touchdowns. He has the potential to be a No. 1 outside receiver, if not now then soon.
Cooper isn’t a classic “X” receiver at 5-10, 175, but he has the speed to get over the top. Cooper averaged a team-best 20.4 yards on 18 receptions. Like Peterson, Cooper appears to have good chemistry with Tate. Cooper, who battled injuries and other issues earlier in his UA career, could be poised for a breakout campaign.
Admittedly, there are a lot of questions here. Peterson never has been a primary receiver. Berryhill and Cooper are unproven as starters. Curry might look the part, but it remains to be seen whether that will translate against bigger, better defensive backs.
Fortunately, they aren’t the only candidates to fill the roles vacated by the veterans. Arizona has multiple options of varying sizes and skill sets. It wouldn’t be at all surprising if one — or more — of the younger players impressed in spring and cracked the rotation.
The 2019 Wildcats have many holes to fill. Several positions are in need of reinforcements. Receiver belongs on that list, but it shouldn’t be atop it.
UA SPRING FOOTBALL PREVIEW