It’s officially game week, and now we have our first Arizona Wildcats depth chart of the 2016 season.
The biggest question most people have is who will be the starting quarterback, and of course, Anu Solomon and Brandon Dawkins are listed as "OR". I would still be surprised if it’s not Solomon that takes the first snap behind center this year. Also, Khalil Tate is behind Zach Werlinger.
Who the quarterback will be getting the snaps from will be redshirt freshman Nathan Eldridge. Ever since the untimely death of Zach Hemmila, Eldridge has been running with the first-team, so this is not exactly a shock. Though if you go back to our offensive line preview, Eldridge told Ryan Kelapire he was shocked when initially moved up to first team.
The rest of the starting offensive line is as projected. It is interesting that Michael Eletise did not make the two-deep though.
At running back, it’s Nick Wilson "OR" Orlando Bradford. The thing to know here is that freshman J.J. Taylor has played himself into the third spot. It won’t be unexpected to see Wilson and Bradford get partially-shared carries, with Wilson taking the majority of them.
Shun Brown listed as the starting "SLOT" receiver is probably the only kind of surprising thing at that position. He seems to have beat out Tyrell Johnson for that role. Cedric Peterson and Devaughn Cooper are two freshmen that have made the cut to be listed.
At tight end, Josh Kern is listed as the starter over Trevor Wood.
Let’s move to defense, and oh look, it’s still kind of a 3-3-5.
Justin Belknap earning the starting spot as a defensive end is not surprising at all considering how the coaches have talked about him all offseason. He’ll have Parker Zellers and Sani Fuimaono alongside him. I’d also expect to see Aiulua Fanene to get a decent number of snaps, especially in short-yardage situations.
The linebackers are full of experience, with no one on the two deep having less than three years of college time under their belts. There are no surprises there either, though Michael Barton will probably see the field a ton as Cody Ippolito’s listed backup at MIKE.
Safety is where we find two true freshmen, Chacho Ulloa and Isaiah Hayes. Redshirt freshman Anthony Mariscal is also in there as a backup. Tellas Jones has come back this fall and won the starting spot at spur, while Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles has locked down the bandit position. At free, it will be Jarvis McCall, who has found that he’s better suited for safety than corner.
Finally, corner is as expected with Dane Cruikshank and DaVonte’ Neal, but the backups are a little surprising with Jace Whittaker and Devin Holiday slotted in those spots right now. However, I’d expect a ton of defensive players to play significant snaps, especially early in the season.
On to special teams.
Josh Pollack is listed as the co-starter for both kicking and punting. I fully expect him to be kicking field goals and extra points with Edgar Gastelum handling kickoff duties.
Pollack’s co-punter is Matt Aragon. One thing that did stand out in the Beanie Bowl was poor punting by both Pollack and Aragon. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were subbed out for each other if one of them shanks a punt in a game.
Nick Reinhardt to Matt Morin as long-snapper/holder was completely expected. Morin used to be a quarterback at San Diego State, so he’ll bring a somewhat unique skillset to that position.
On punt return, it’ll be Nate Phillips with J.J. Taylor behind him. And kickoff return has some serious speed, with Tyrell Johnson, Taylor and Shun Brown. It’ll just be a matter if they can get decent blocks in front of them.