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Arizona football notebook: On the Wildcats’ updated 2017 roster

Some notes on the updated roster

Arizona v BYU Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Arizona Wildcats have released their 2017 roster, and Rich Rodriguez announced at Pac-12 Media Days that he has added over 50 players to the team.

Here are some notes on each position group regarding some notable additions, key returners who have bulked up, and other things. You can find the full online roster here.


  • Nothing too interesting in this department. Everyone aside from DaVonte’ Neal returns and the staff added Tony Wallace and Malik Hausman in the 2017 recruiting class.

Defensive end/linebackers

  • This is a very interesting group, in which Arizona has a lot of viable options here.
  • Kylan Wilborn enters the program as a 3-star recruit and checks in at 6-foot-2, 240 pounds. When he gets on the field, he’ll remind a lot of people of Derrick Turituri — a thick, aggressive dude who plays downhill.
  • Jose Ramirez committed to Arizona without ever stepping foot on campus and enrolled just a few days later. He left high school at 195 pounds, and now checks in at 238 pounds. With DeAndre’ Miller being injury prone, Ramirez could be the next guy up.
  • Another guy who has put on a lot of weight since high school is Francisco Nelson. Recruiting services had him listed at 215 pounds. His first season with the program he was at 231 pounds, now he sits at 244 pounds with a 6-foot-2 frame.
  • Arizona brings in two freshmen at 6-foot-4, who have an enormous ceiling in Jalen Harris and My-King Johnson. Harris is listed at 212 pounds and Johnson is at 220 pounds.
  • Justin Belknap bulked up a bit, now checking at 259 pounds. He played at 247 pounds last season.

Defensive line

  • Arizona adds freshman Kurtis Brown, who is listed at 6-foot-1, 285 pounds — a pretty solid size for a true freshman. He did tear his meniscus his senior season, and pre-existing injuries have not been kind to Arizona in the past, so his health is critical.
  • Finton Connolly came onto the scene last season and has actually trimmed down, now listed at 270 pounds. He was previously hitting 280.
  • A lot of people always ask about the four-star recruit Marcus Griffin. He’s now listed at 6-foot-3 as a redshirt junior, which means he’s grown three inches since he arrived to Tucson three years ago.
  • An extremely pleasant surprise last season was Larry Tharpe Jr., who is just a very big body at 6-foot-5, 275 pounds.
  • After a crazy recruiting story, Boise State defensive tackle Dereck Boles is officially listed on the roster and he is working with a 6-foot-2, 296-pound frame. He still needs some academic work to straighten up before he can play.
  • And then there’s Sione Taufahema, Arizona’s big junior college transfer who just recently suffered an injury. He entered in January at 310 pounds, now he is up to 330 pounds.


  • Arizona should just run a triple-option with Jamardre Cobb, who is listed at 6-foot, 275 pounds. He entered the program as a linebacker weighing 239 pounds, but injuries slowed him down significantly.


  • True freshman Tony Fields II has received a lot of high praise from Rich Rodriguez since he enrolled early this spring. He’s listed at 6-foot-1, 223 pounds, extremely good size for a freshman weak-side linebacker.
  • If Fields doesn’t start, it will likely be redshirt freshman Gavin Robertson Jr., a converted safety who checks in at 6-foot-1, 220 pounds. He’s going to be a big-time hitter at Arizona.
  • Colin Schooler, the Orange County Defensive Player of the Year enters the program with some high expectations, and checks in at 6-feet, 224 pounds. He will be physically ready to play middle linebacker.
  • Another potential contributor at middle linebacker is Josh Brown, out of Long Beach Poly. The freshman comes in at 6-foot-3, 244 pounds. Some of that might be bad weight, but that can certainly change as the season goes on.
  • One last freshman to watch out for is Anthony Pandy, he comes in with solid size at 6-feet, 225 pounds.
  • Notice how the four freshmen mentioned already come in with solid size, and that’s just the work before summer camp. This is a promising group for the next four years given the talent that was brought in. It’s just a matter of who their coach will be for the next four years.
  • Rodriguez mentioned that he brought in 50 new players to the program, between walk-ons and scholarship guys, and there are 11 new linebackers on this roster.

Offensive line

  • Layth Friekh made a huge weight jump, previously at 282 pounds, he’s now just north of 300 pounds.
  • Arizona did not nearly do as much as they should have on the offensive line with the 2017 recruiting class, but they did bring in a raw Edgar Burrola, who suffered a shoulder injury during his senior year. If he can get healthy, his 6-foot-5, 293-pound body will be a great asset in the future.
  • Maisen Knight was added this summer to the 2017 class, where he is a early qualifier, allowing him to transfer from Ventura College after just one season, meaning he’ll have four years to play three at Arizona. He is listed at 6-foot-5, 279 pounds.
  • Jacob Alsadek, Arizona’s lone shot at having an NFL Draft pick this season, is up 10 pounds to 325 standing at 6-foot-7. He’s really big.
  • Bryson Cain is an offensive tackle that doesn’t get a lot of attention. He entered at 276 pounds and is now at 291.
  • Overall, Arizona’s scholarship offensive linemen are very large. Aside from Knight and Christian Boettcher, every scholarship offensive lineman is over 290 pounds, and their average weight as a group is 299 pounds.


  • Rich Rodriguez says he is not afraid to play three quarterbacks this season, so it’s going to come down to one of these guys.
  • Rhett Rodriguez is listed at 6-feet, 186 pounds as he enters year one
  • K’Hari Lane, a very late addition to the 2017 class, is a big guy, listed at 6-foot-1, 245 pounds. He’s going to need to trim about 15-20 pounds before he ever sees the field.
  • Donavan Tate, Arizona’s 26-year old freshman quarterback, is 6-foot-2, 207 pounds.

Running back

  • Nathan Tilford seems to be the only significant running back to mention. He is Pac-12 ready, with a 6-foot-2, 206 pound frame.


  • A lot of new safeties on this roster, but nothing too significant in terms of returning players, although Tristan Cooper and Isaiah Hayes both bulked up a bit from their 180 pound frames.
  • Troy Young, an incoming freshman, is listed at 6-feet, 205 pounds, which gives his a shot to be converted to a linebacker if necessary, much like Paul Magloire Jr. and Gavin Robertson.

Tight end

  • Two new tight ends, both freshmen named Bryce, listed at 6-foot-3. Bryce Gilbert out of Higley High (Gilbert, Ariz.) is listed at 225 pounds. And Bryce Wolma, a childhood friend and Rhett Rodriguez’ roommate, is checking in at 239 pounds.

Wide receiver

  • It’s no secret that Arizona lacks size, but they do bring in a big body in Drew Dixon, who checks in at 6-foot-2, 203 pounds. He might be a little raw, being that he played mostly quarterback and running back at Sabino, but there’s a high ceiling there.
  • A notable walk-on is Isaiah Lovett, the son of former Wildcat and current color commentator Lamont Lovett. Isaiah checks in at 6-foot-1, 193 pounds and is a very valuable walk-on.
  • It will be interesting to see if Brian Casteel gets a shot to play as a true freshman. The way he played at Charter Oak High School (Covina, Calif.), he seems like an ultra-productive Nate Phillips type of receiver.