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Injuries on Arizona’s offensive line have cleared way for Jordan Morgan to step in

jordan-morgan-arizona-wildcats-injuries-redshirt-offensive-line-sumlin-2019-football Photo by Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

For the first five games this season, the Arizona Wildcats started the same five guys on the offensive line. Six, technically, if you account for Edgar Burrola and Paiton Fears sharing the right tackle position.

But the last four games have been a completely different story for Arizona, as injuries have led to a different starting lineup for each contest.

That trend figures to continue when Arizona visits Oregon on Saturday night. Center Josh McCauley, left tackle Donovan Laie and right guard Bryson Cain (who was starting in place of the injured Cody Creason) all got hurt in some form during the 56-38 loss to Oregon State on Oct. 26, and even with a bye week to recover coach Kevin Sumlin is preparing for another patchwork line.

“We ended the game with one lineman that we started the year with, maybe two,” Sumlin said Monday. “I don’t know if all those guys will be back. The way the game ended, we were down to our eight and ninth and 10th linemen. I don’t know what program could be strong enough to do that.”

Among those pressed into action was true freshman Jordan Morgan, who ended up playing nearly half the game at left tackle in place of Laie. That was Morgan’s fourth appearance of the season, the maximum for a player before he loses the ability to redshirt.

Sumlin said earlier this season that Morgan was being prepped to go beyond that four-game limit in case of emergency, even traveling with the team to games at USC and Stanford. And it appears he’s had to break the glass on arguably Arizona’s most underrated 2019 recruit.

“The decision on Jordan Morgan is Jordan Morgan is going; he’s ready to go,” Sumlin said. “He’s been practicing the whole time, so he’s going to play the rest of the season. Not play, he’s probably going to end up starting, based on where we are right now, what we have available.”

Morgan, a 3-star prospect from nearby Marana, committed to Arizona in June 2018 as a virtual unknown. But that didn’t last long, as ASU and USC extended scholarship offers last September in hopes of luring him from the Wildcats.

“There towards the end he was about the highest-recruited guy in the state,” Sumlin said. “There’s a reason for that. He’s extremely athletic. He’s an elite athlete. That’s why he was recruited the way he was recruited. He’s a really, really good athlete and he’s smart.”

Fellow offensive linemen Steven Bailey and Jon Jacobs raved about Morgan’s play on Tuesday, with Bailey indicating Morgan is likely to start at one of the tackle spots.

“As far as his athletic prowess, he’s kind of like a monster,” Jacobs said of the 6-foot-5, 287-pound Morgan. “A guy that’s legitimately squatting 650 in the weight room.”

Burning other redshirts?

Saturday would be Morgan’s fifth game, meaning he’d be a sophomore in 2019. He’ll be the 16th true freshman or junior college transfer to have his redshirt burned this season, and a few more Wildcats are getting close to being at the appearance limit.

Freshman punter Kyle Ostendorp, who took over as starter two games ago, has made three appearances, while freshman defensive lineman Kwabena Watson and junior offensive lineman Josh Donovan have played in two games apiece. So has Bailey, who is listed as a senior but does have a year of eligibility left because he didn’t make enough appearances to go over the limit in 2018.

Another guy that would be redshirt-eligible if he doesn’t play again is sophomore defensive back Troy Young, who played in the first four games this season but hasn’t seen the field in the last five.

Almost everyone else with games left to play wouldn’t go over the limit unless Arizona managed to get bowl eligible. That includes junior quarterback Rhett Rodriguez, whose only appearance this fall was in mop-up duty against NAU.