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Arizona football 2017 depth chart: Previewing the Wildcats’ wide receivers

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Struggles in the passing game are ahead

NCAA Football: Arizona at Utah Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

There’s no secret that the Arizona Wildcats’ passing game is little more than an idle threat.

It’s more than a knock against the quarterbacks (who trend toward running) or the offensive line (who trend toward injuries). It’s a knock on the current slew of wide receivers on the Arizona roster, and it’s an indictment on how Rich Rodriguez has recruited.

KEY LOSSES: Nate Phillips, Samajie Grant, Trey Griffey

KEY RETURNERS: Shun Brown, Tyrell Johnson, Cam Denson, Shawn Poindexter, Zach Benjamin, Tony Ellison

KEY NEWCOMERS: Drew Dixon

Nate Phillips, Samajie Grant, and Trey Griffey exit Arizona Stadium carrying a combined career totals of 376 receptions, 4,811 yards, and 33 touchdowns out the door with them. That’s a lot of production and experience departing the roster. What’s left is a collection of wide receivers green behind the ears and unproven in big-time competition.

Say what you will about expectations in the passing game this year, but Shun Brown is primed for a breakout season. The diminutive receiver (5’8”) has proven to be a durable football player who can make plays. He is the most seasoned receiver on the active roster with career totals of 33 receptions, 545 yards, and three touchdowns. Whereas these totals aren’t record setting, they leave no doubt that Arizona quarterbacks will be looking Shun’s way with regularity.

Unfortunately, there may not be much to distract opposing secondaries from keying on Shun. The remaining roster has a combined 51 career receptions. This stat highlights the biggest concern with the UA wide receivers: experience. Secondaries throughout the Pac-12 are loaded with hardened defensive backs. The best odds for a stellar wide receiver performance this season will be against California, Washington State, and Arizona State. After that, there appears to be little chance for much wide receiver impact — Rodriguez again failed to land a touted recruit at receiver, so there isn’t much in terms of newcomers.

Overall, the UA wide receiver roster is in the bottom quartile of the league in numerous categories.

To wit, Arizona wide receivers are:

  • 7th in the Pac-12 in total playing experience
  • 11th in the Pac-12 in 2016 catches returning
  • 11th in the Pac-12 in career catches returning
  • 10th in the Pac-12 with number of wide receivers on roster
  • 10th in the Pac-12 in average height (71.54 inches/5’11.5”)

Looking to the future, the cupboard is growing bare. The Arizona receiving corp is 10th in the league with regard to average 247Sports Composite scores, barely ahead of Oregon State and Colorado. There just isn’t much potential that a game-changing receiver is on the current roster.

With the dearth of playing experience among the receivers and the absence of a highly-touted threat, the Arizona faithful had best hope for a few pleasant surprises this season.