Welcome to the next positional previews post that we'll give you as the Arizona Wildcats await the season kickoff on Saturday, Sept. 1, against the Toledo Rockets. So far, we've taken a look at the special teams unit and the linebackers, and today we are looking at one of the deeper and more talented positions groups on the team, the wide receivers. The group looks ahead this year looking to replace its top three contributors from last year; including 5th round NFL Draft pick, Juron Criner.
Dan Buckner (6'4'', 215 lbs) - Senior - 2011: 42 receptions, 606 yards, 2 TDs
Austin Hill (6'3'', 211 lbs) - Sophomore - 2011: 21 receptions, 311 yards, 2 TDs
Richard Morrison (5'11'', 183 lbs) - Junior - 2011: 22 receptions, 201 yards, 2 TDs
Terrence Miller (6'4'', 228 lbs) - Senior - 2011: 11 receptions, 136 yards, 0 TDs
Key Additions/Impact Newcomers:
Garic Wharton (5'11'', 164 lbs) - Sophomore
Sean Willet (6'0'', 192 lbs) - Junior
Tyler Slavin (6'2'', 205 lbs) - Sophomore
Juron Criner - NFL Draft, 5th round, Oakland Raiders - 2011: 75 receptions, 956 yards, 11 TDs
David Douglas - Undrafted Free Agent, New York Giants - 2011: 65 receptions, 666 yards, 4 TDs
Gino Crump - Undrafted Free Agent - 2011: 65 receptions, 610 yards, 2 TDs
In 2012 Arizona will look to replace 205 receptions, 2,232 yards, and 17 TDs from the above troika of departures. The team is moving to more of a run-based spread offense attack under the helm of Rich Rodriguez. The Air Zona days of Willie Tuitama and Nick Foles attempting 45+ passes a game are likely done, so the burden to replace all of that production will not be as high as in years past. The overall talent loss cannot be completely overlooked, however.
How will Arizona replace the departed and move on in 2012?
Arizona's new offensive attack will feature many offensive sets with three and four wide receivers. The base formations will not look that much different from years past, with 3 WR/2 RB, 4 WR/1RB, and 3 WR/1 TE/1 RB sets being very common under Rich Rod. The difference will be in the frequency of pass plays vs. run plays changing dramatically in a shift towards a run-heavy offense.
Dan Buckner and Austin Hill will be counted on for their experience and size to contribute at the outside receiver spots in 2012. Buckner (a former transfer from Texas) will be looked to to provide play-making ability and consistency for Matt Scott. Hill came on strong throughout 2011, and could be a break-out name in 2012 for the Wildcats.
On the inside, slot receivers Richard Morrison, Tyler Slavin, and Terrence Miller will see plenty of action. Miller, a converted tight end, provides the size other receivers (outside of Buckner) lack. Miller's 6'4'' 228 lb. frame should create mismatches all over the field in 2012.
[RELATED: Check out the Wildcats' updated depth chart]
Richard Morrison recently was re-dedicated to wide receiver after spending part of spring ball taking reps at quarterback. Morrison originally came to Arizona as a quarterback recruit, but has the raw athleticism to have an impact on offense at wide receiver.
Along with Morrison, Las Vegas speedster Garic Wharton could find plenty of reps this year based on his ability to do the one thing most people can't: run really, really fast. Wharton was largely a kickoff return specialist last year, but could see his role increase this year.
Former walk-on Sean Willet has been a surprise story in camp. Willet caught five balls for 113 yards and a touchdown in the Cats' mid-August scrimmage. He also has possibly the best team photo of 2012. Willet's former walk-on status should do nothing to keep him nor Johnny Jackson off the field this fall. It's a new program and the players who produce and take to the system will play. His progression and reps will be very interesting to watch the first few weeks of the season.
It wouldn't be a Arizona Wildcat wide receiver preview without mentioning the son of Arizona's current most-famous dad, Trey Griffey. Ken Griffey Jr.'s son followed up a senior high school season that placed him in the Under Armour All American game, and signed with the Cats. Trey stands 6'3'', 187 lbs., and hails from Orlando, FL. A redshirt year would not be out of the question, but Arizona fans should certainly look forward to seeing what Trey can provide.
Overall, any position group that looks to replace the top three contributors from a year before is not going to come without questions marks. Can Buckner take over and respond to the roll of #1 WR? Will Austin Hill continue to develop and consistently show the talent he flashed last year? Will Richard Morrison continue to improve and boost his production after flirting with quarterback this spring? The running abilities of quarterback Matt Scott and the stable of running backs (Carey, Jenkins, Butler, Nwoko, et. al) will take tremendous pressure off of the wide receiver group, unlike in years past. This is no weak link, as a position group, however. The combination of size and speed should provide plenty capable to execute Rich Rod's offense. This group is deep and athletic, and should give Matt Scott and the Arizona offense plenty of opportunity to stretch defenses vertically in 2012.