Welcome to a new series in which we try to determine if the Arizona Wildcats’ position groups are in strong, stable, unstable, serious, or critical condition heading into fall camp. Next up is the offensive line.
Projected Starters: Layth Friekh, Michael Eletise, Nathan Eldridge, Bryson Cain, Cody Creason
Backups: Thiyo Lukusa, Josh McCauley, Jon Jacobs, Alex Kosinski, Edgar Burrola, Tyrell Aponte, Tyson Gardner, David Watson, Steven Bailey, Donovan Laie
Nathan Eldridge is really the glue that holds this line together at center, entering his third season as a starter. In my opinion, he’s one of the most overlooked players on the roster.
Layth Friekh be facing a two-game suspension to start the season due to his fifth year of eligibility being granted, but has put in three solid years of work as the blindside tackle.
At the other tackle spot, Cody Creason looks to fully take over the position. He was essentially a co-starter on the line with Gerhard de Beer’s injuries throughout the past two years, which makes it a little easier to feel good about replacing three starters.
Bryson Cain suffered a season-ending injury last season and projected best as a tackle, but has filled in at right guard now. This spot is probably the most concerning, only because it’s a spot that never had any concern with four-year starter Jacob Alsadek there. The position as a whole, had no true immediate backup either.
Lastly on the line is the most prized recruit of these five, Michael Eletise. We’ve been waiting to see what he can do and he looks to start at left guard. He sets up nicely sitting between Friekh and Eldridge on the line, which will help his progression as he gains game experience.
The most trustworthy backup seems to be Thiyo Lukusa, the Michigan State transfer who had suddenly left football, but decided to come back to it and play at Arizona. He was projected to start at left tackle for the Spartans before he decided to leave, but Friekh has much more experience. We’ll get to see what Lukusa can do early on, as he’ll likely fill in for Friekh during his suspension. Lukusa can also push Creason at right tackle.
Josh McCauley and Jon Jacobs are two walk-ons to consider as backups at guard. The line depth just doesn’t have a whole lot of guards to begin with, but these are also fairly talented walk-ons. Still, it’s telling that of the last staff that there is a clear lack of scholarship depth.
Alex Kosinski is really a utility guy. He is likely behind Eldridge at center and can play either guard spot.
After sitting out his freshman year due to a shoulder injury from high school, Edgar Burrola made some progress at left tackle behind Friekh. He ws raw coming out of high school but has great size to develop into depth.
Arizona brought in three linemen in the 2018 class. David Watson, a Tucson product, enrolled early and is projecting at right tackle. Donovan Laie has arrived to campus and can likely play either tackle position. Steven Bailey, a junior college transfer, can rise up the depth chart and fill in at guard due to the poor depth.
Tyrell Apone and Tyson Gardner will serve as reserves.
I’m just not comfortable saying this unit is stable, although unstable makes it sound a little harsh.
On paper, the line doesn’t look bad. Friekh is a three-year contributor, Eleitse was a highly ranked prospect, Eldridge is two-time Remmington Award Watch List center, Cain has the upside and Creason has played in a handful of Pac-12 games.
But it’s the depth that really gets you worried. Arizona can’t really afford to take any injuries because of the inexperience or lack of talent. You have to hope that the guards can hold up, with Eletise living up to his recruiting hype and Bryson Cain filling in some big shoes.
What condition are Arizona’s safeties in?
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