Though the pain of how the 2018 season ended won’t fade for a while, the Arizona Wildcats must look ahead to 2019 in hopes of rebounding from this disappointing year.
A big part of that process is roster management, making sure the team has enough players available at all positions to ensure they can weather the inevitable injuries that come during the course of a season. An aspect of that involves the use of redshirts to retain eligibility for players who, for a variety of reasons, weren’t heavily used.
Based on our analysis of the roster, as well as participation reports from all 12 games, Arizona has 22 scholarship players who could be redshirted for 2018.
Most of those are players who were in their first year in the program, but not all. Here’s how it breaks down:
Nearly every member of the Wildcats’ 2018 recruiting class saw action this fall, a byproduct of the NCAA’s new redshirt rule. Players could appear in up to four games at any point in a season without using up a year of eligibility, as opposed to burning a redshirt the moment they took their first snap.
Because of this, only four of Arizona’s true freshmen scholarship players will be sophomores in 2019: offensive tackle Donovan Laie, cornerback McKenzie Barnes, safety Dayven Coleman and safety (turned CB) Christian Young.
- Everyone else can be listed as redshirt freshmen. For those keeping score at home, here are the redshirt-eligible frosh who are scholarship players:
- WR Tre Adams
- WR Jailen Bailey
- QB Kevin Doyle
- DL Mykee Irving
- QB Jamarye Joiner
- LB Issaiah Johnson
- WR Thomas Marcus Jr.
- TE Jake Peters
- RB Darrius Smith
- DL Nahe Sulunga
- OL David Watson
- TE Zach Williams
The new redshirt rule doesn’t just apply to freshmen. Because of this, a trio of sophomores, a junior and a senior are also in line to retain a year of eligibility because of limited or no participation in 2018.
Most notable among that group is senior cornerback Jace Whittaker. A starter all of 2017, Whittaker appeared in only one game this season because of injuries. His absence from Arizona’s Senior Day ceremonies prior to the Territorial Cup indicates he plans on coming back for another season.
Offensive lineman Steven Bailey, a junior college transfer, appeared in four games and can retain two years of eligibility, while running back Nathan Tilford, wide receiver Brian Casteel and defensive tackle Kurtis Brown are redshirt-eligible among sophomores.
There are also a handful of Arizona players who, despite having already used their redshirt years, could get back a year of eligibility via the medical redshirt process. They would need to apply to the NCAA for a hardship waiver based on injuries that kept them from playing most or all of 2018.
Since Arizona coach Kevin Sumlin has been very mum about injuries, however, the potential medical redshirt candidates are based purely on speculation. We’ve identified five possibilities, all redshirt juniors:
- DE Justin Belknap
- OL Nathan Eldridge
- OL Alex Kosinski
- CB Sammy Morrison
- DL Sione Taufahema
Belknap reportedly broke his foot prior to the third game of the season after starting against BYU and Houston. Eldridge had been Arizona’s starting center for 2016 and 2017 but his absence forced the Wildcats to turn to walk-on Josh McCauley, while Kosinski was expected to compete for a starting spot on the offensive line after appearing in 15 games in his first two seasons.
Morrison was in line to contribute in the secondary and special teams, as he’d done in previous seasons, while Taufahema was expected to see some snaps on the defensive line after redshirting in 2017 following his arrival from junior college.
Will all 22 of these players be redshirted? Probably not. Some may end up leaving the program due to a lack of playing time (either to this point or in the future) while ones who have already been redshirted may wait to apply for a hardship.