The Arizona Wildcats are heading into the full swing of summer including classes and lifting.
There is a lot of excitement surrounding Kevin Sumlin’s first season, and the young talent that surrounds him.
There’s a strong core on both sides of the ball for Arizona, but there are also some guys who could be flying under the radar, and poised to break out as big time role players in 2018.
Let’s identify who some of them are...
Arizona’s cornerback depth is weak and you’re going to have to rotate someone between Jace Whittaker and Lorenzo Burns.
Tony Wallace is a guy who boomed very late in the recruiting process with offers to Nebraska, Oregon and USC, but stuck to his commitment with Arizona.
Wallace has the athleticism and the tools to be a lockdown corner, and naturally someone is going to have to step up and make plays at corner.
Wallace is probably the most complete package at corner, and while Jhevon Hill is an intriguing 6-foot-3 freshman coming in, I can’t see him beating out Wallace as that rotational corner.
Jalen Harris might be one of the most pure pass rushers for Arizona. Even with a lanky frame — 6-foot-4, 211 pounds — Harris can close in on a quarterback and disrupt an offense.
Kylan Wilborn got a lot of usage last season, almost too much. Harris can help alleviate that workload and do some damage as a rotational stud, either as standing up or getting down on the line.
Harris looked good this spring and got some quality reps in the spring game that show he’s made some progression in the off-season, after redshirting his first year on campus.
Stanley Berryhill III
My spring game crush was Stanley Berryhill III, a redshirt freshman walk-on originally from Tucson High.
He made some big plays after the catch and overall I think he’s a guy who can be used perfectly in Noel Mazzone’s short and screen pass offense. At 5-foot-9, 179 pounds, Berryhill fits that elusive slot receiver mold that plays like Desean Jackson.
Arizona doesn’t have a lot of depth for the slot. Shun Brown is the primary slot target, and Tony Ellison can work inside too, but in a standard four-receiver set, I think the spring success for Berryhill actually carries into the season.
His name came up a bit last year in practice, and now with a year under his belt and a weak depth chart at receiver, Berryhill has a good shot at becoming a top target for Khalil Tate this season.
Jarrius Wallace took over the starting free safety role for an injured Scottie Young and Isaiah Hayes late in the season, and came away with a lot of big plays by closing the distance between the ball and a receiver.
Young‘s status with the program is still unclear, and Hayes has already had a significant injury that kept him away from football for a season. So Wallace is the most experienced free safety as a redshirt sophomore.
With him will be Tristan Cooper, who should reclaim his starting spur role, and Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles, who is back at bandit and entering his fourth year as a major key to the secondary. It sets Wallace up nicely down the middle.
This is the breakout player everyone is hoping for this season. After burning a redshirt for just 13 carries, the former four-star running back did not get as many opportunities as most would have thought.
The new coaching staff has said Tilford has all of the tools, he‘s just still trying to learn a lot. He had a couple of strong runs during the spring game as well, including one that featured a juke, spin and stiff arm.
J.J. Taylor is the No. 1 back, and he’ll be taking a decent workload with Khalil Tate. But Tilford can enter as the power back with blocking, earning some carries and finding the endzone.
Gary Brightwell fits the offense well because of his pass catching abilities. Converted safety Anthony Mariscal had an extremely strong debut at running back and shouldn’t just be glossed over because of a position change halfway through his career. Branden Leon has the ability to get some well-earned reps, too.
The backfield is crowded, but Tilford is just too talented to stay off the field and not be utilized. He might not get 20 carries a game, but he’s an overall balanced back that I think can get a couple of hundred rushing yard games.
Some other guys I struggled with and wanted to include: JB Brown (DL), Brian Casteel (WR), Michael Eletise (OG), My-King Johnson (DE) and Kurtis Brown (DT)