The Arizona Wildcats are set to begin spring practice this Friday, and just two days before, the team updated the official roster heading into the spring. Included are quite a few walk-ons, plus the mid-year enrollees, including 2015 gray shirts and 2016 early signees.
There are also quite a few notable position changes that will be implemented, something that Rich Rodriguez has not been afraid to do. Prior to the bowl game, Rodriguez had said he was going to look at the depth chart and see who will move around. While there are only three notable changes now, there still might be more to come as we approach the fall, just as we saw with Johnny Jackson, switching just weeks before the first game vs. UTSA in 2015.
The one most expected was Cam Denson. Late in the season, Rich Rodriguez has said they were working him on offense a bit, just to see how it would look. While he hasn't had a great time at corner, he'll now be able to flip to the other side of the ball, becoming a speedy target for whoever ends up being the quarterback. Given the slew of upperclassmen at receiver, this should be a good move for Denson down the road.
I say whoever ends up at quarterback simply because of the three viable options at the position. While I think Rich Rodriguez ends up sticking with his two-year starter at quarterback, no jobs are won thus far. And we know that Anu Solomon has had lingering issues with injuries, leaving it up to Brandon Dawkins or Khalil Tate to step in. Arizona also added another walk-on quarterback this spring, Anthony Medina out of Servite High School, a recruiting hotbed in the Los Angeles area.
The next two changes move two offensive players over to the defense. The first is Jamardre Cobb, who initially came in as a 4-star linebacker out of Salesian High School (Los Angeles, CA). His name has been a hot topic since his arrival, likely because of the recent depth at linebacker. He came in with a hamstring injury which set him back a bit during his redshirt season.
This past season, he made the switch to fullback and was a great asset on offense. I really liked what he brought to the goal line game, typically being brought in for the diamond formation. He was a key blocker, with a lot of those goal line touchdown runs going to his right side.
Now, he'll be moving back to linebacker, after expressing his interest. We'll see how quickly he can pick it back up, because depending on the scheme and injury situation, he might be seeing some action. We'll wait on the status of Cody Ippolito and Jake Matthews, and Derrick Turituri has been rumored to possibly miss the entire 2016 season.
As for healthy linebackers, there's new California graduate transfer Michael Barton and redshirt junior DeAndre' Miller. After that, it gets pretty thin. But Arizona will have Kahi Neves, Iowa transfer John Kenny, and redshirt freshman Carrington Vaughn, who is a name I've been told to watch out for this season. Kendal Franklin is also there and can be used as a hybrid linebacker/defensive end, depending on the new scheme Marcel Yates will utilize.
Now for the last change, former tight end Darrell Cloy Jr. will be moving to the defensive line. He holds a 6-2, 260lb frame, and was originally a member of the 2014 recruiting class, but headed to Milford Prep for a year and joined the team this past fall. He contributed mostly on special teams, but came in on offense a few times and caught one pass for six yards against Arizona State.
This move was a little surprising, especially after hearing that Cloy expressed his interest in switching to defense. The defensive line might be the weakest point of the team at this moment, and Rich Rodriguez clearly already has trust in him. With a great offseason, maybe Cloy actually has a shot at being used immediately, albeit sparingly on defense
Arizona has been stockpiling tight ends, but we've yet to see them really work out in the offense. Trevor Wood, Josh Kern and Matt Morin are all experienced guys, but we really only saw Josh Kern, who caught eight passes for 59 yards a touchdown. Wood missed the season due to various injuries, and Morin was primarily seen on special teams. Tight ends haven't exactly been active in the offense, so this could be a great move for Cloy.