The Arizona Wildcats’ safety group is loaded for 2017, returning all but one member from the previous year in Tellas Jones.
Headlining this group will be junior Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles at the bandit safety, sophomore Isaiah Hayes at free safety, and sophomore Tristan Cooper as the spur safety.
Key Losses: Tellas Jones
Key Returners: Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles, Isaiah Hayes, Tristan Cooper, Chacho Ulloa, Anthony Mariscal, Jarvis McCall, Kwesi Mashack, Devon Brewer, Jarrius Wallace
Key Newcomers: Rhedi Short, Scott Young, Xavier Bell, Troy Young
The safety group is split up now, with Marcel Yates taking over the spur positions, leaving Jahmile Addae with only the bandit and free safeties under his control.
This could quite arguably be Arizona’s best position group on defense, too. It’s a young group, but there’s plenty of room to grow.
Along with the trio of returning starting safeties listed above, Arizona will bring back Anthony Mariscal, Chacho Ulloa, Jarvis McCall and Kwesi Mashack, all formidable backups. I think we can expect to see a lot more of Mariscal, Mashack and Ulloa in 2017. Last year, McCall didn’t get to see too much action with all the coaching changes.
Gavin Robertson Jr. was moved from safety to linebacker, where he might be the favorite to win the weak-side linebacker job. He was a big-time hitter out of high school and bulked up to 6-foot-3, 225 pounds this offseason.
Arizona also returns Devon Brewer and Jarrius Wallace, who are still likely looking at third team and special team duties.
The Arizona coaching staff brought in four strong safeties in 2017 recruiting class. Rhedi Short was once a UCLA commit, Xavier Bell played for third-ranked Mater Dei High School (Santa Ana, Calif.), Troy Young was the do-it-all safety/running back at Mobile Christian, and Scott Young was East County Player of the Year and ranked No. 3 among San Diego prospects.
I think any of the four have a shot to play immediately, however there is a lot of solid and young depth ahead of them, which makes it harder to rationalize burning their redshirt.
Troy Young looks like a Marquis Flowers type of player, and Rhedi Short is similar to Tellas Jones. Scott Young reminds me exactly of Will Parks and Xavier Bell has a bit of Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles in him.
Overall, having three very talented and smart guys — Flannigan-Fowles, Cooper and Hayes — starting together for another year will keep the consistency.
Adding in the depth of versatility of Marsical, Mashack, and McCall only makes this group stronger. And while this freshman class might not get to see a lot of action, the UA should be in good hands at safety for years to come.