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Arizona football: Wildcats wide receivers gain confidence against USC

Seven different guys caught balls against USC last weekend, which bodes well moving forward for the Arizona offense

Garic Wharton and the other Arizona Wildcats receivers gaining confidence after big game vs. USC
Garic Wharton and the other Arizona Wildcats receivers gaining confidence after big game vs. USC
Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE

It's no secret that through the first four games of the season, the Arizona Wildcats passing game was not exactly something that opponents were fearful of.

But after the USC game, the Arizona wide outs are ready to prove that they can be the best, and possibly most diverse group in the Pac-12.

"Now we have all the confidence in the world," said Garic Wharton.  "We can do anything we want."

Heading into the USC game, the Wildcats had put together a lowly 445 total passing yards in four games.  Last week vs. USC?  363 passing yards.

"Before it was a feeling like we were just faster linemen almost," continued Wharton.  "But now we feel involved in the offensive game.  Everybody's happy, we're excited."

"It felt pretty good just to know that we were spreading the ball around a lot," added Terrence Miller.  "It was good to get my hands on the ball a little more."

"I think we're a lot more comfortable," continued Nate Phillips.

Seven different players caught balls against USC.

"I don't know that anything changed," said WR coach Tony Dews.  "We were running the same plays.  I think we just executed.  We got the protection that we needed up front, B.J. Denker put the ball on the guys, and they finally made plays."

"It finally all came together."

The second half was certainly better than the first half, and Denker talked about how frustrating it was watching the film to see all the points that were left out there.

"I don't know if we came out flat," said Denker, "but yeah, you can definitely see on the film if we had done a couple different things..." that there were more scoring opportunities out there.

"Obviously we didn't connect early on," said coach Dews.  "You live and you learn, continue to work and grow."

What looked a lot better against USC compared to prior games was Denker's ability to anticipate where the receivers are.

"Sometimes, everybody's quick to blame the quarterback," continued Dews.  "Well sometimes, if the receivers aren't where they're supposed to be, it makes the quarterback look bad."

"I think it's been a combination of both.  We helped B.J. a little bit by being where we were supposed to be a little bit better."

That was the main issue I noticed during the Washington game.  It seemed like the receivers were going to the wrong spot, and coach Dews said that they worked on that a lot before heading to Los Angeles.

David Richards' return

Another important aspect of the receivers gaining confidence is the return of veteran wide receiver David Richards.  Richards has been dealing with a foot injury since the spring game.

"I would say it's completely healthy now," said Richards.  "I just gotta make sure I'm in the training room every day not forgetting about it, keeping it healthy."

"It feels so good now just being able to go out there and not have to worry about it.  Just being able to run routes, just doing everything not having to worry about cutting a certain way with it hurting.  It just feels good."

Richards, who's listed at 6-4, adds height as well as leadership to an otherwise short group of young receivers.

"It helps a lot, his height, and he has great hands," said Nate Phillips (5-7).  "It helps on the outside to stick the taller guys out there rather than the shorter guys."

"It takes a little bit of pressure off of me," added Terrence Miller (6-4).  "Sometimes they might see our smaller lineup and they might try and focus on me.  Now that we've got another big-bodied receiver that can post up some smaller DBs and do some things that smaller receivers can't do, it takes a little pressure off me."

"It's been positive," continued coach Dews.  "It's going to benefit everybody with more fresh bodies, and David provides some leadership because he's been in some big Pac-12 games.  And Austin Hill's around, so Austin's able to talk to these guys.  Just having Austin around, and then having David on the field and being able to show them certainly helps."

Being able to stick a big guy on the outside with David Richards also gives Garic Wharton (6-0) a chance to have more space to run on the opposite side of the field.

"Garic's really fast," joked Richards.  "He can just burn the corner down the sideline.  If you have one receiver over here that can do this, they can't really just key in on one person.  So you gotta man up and pick your poison.  If you pick your poison with Garic he's just going to run by you."

"I'm constantly prodding (Wharton) trying to figure out how to make that show up every day in practice and every opportunity he gets into the game," said coach Dews.  "We all know that he has the ability to make explosive plays down the field.  He certainly provides a little bit of a spark.  We just hope he keeps coming along."

Coach Dews said that when the team ran 40-yard dashes in the spring, Jared Baker just edged Wharton as the fastest player on the team.  So getting Wharton involved in the passing game is a must for the Wildcats and B.J. Denker to succeed.

"We just trying to figure out what we can do," said Wharton.

"Some of the reasons why I've had success with him is because he gets a lot of separation," continued Denker.  "It's hard to press-up Garic Wharton because he's very, very fast.  When you get a lot of separation from the wide receiver, that makes my job easier."

"(The receivers) are getting a lot better.  A lot better at getting off press man and giving me a window to throw the ball."

All the receivers talked about gaining a ton of confidence moving forward.  Look for this group to become very dangerous as Arizona gets further into the conference schedule.  Combine a good receiving corps with the backfield that the Wildcats have and you could end up with a very explosive offense if everyone's clicking and has the timing nailed down.