When you think of the 2018 Arizona Wildcats and all of their returning talent, what’s the first name that comes to mind? Besides Khalil Tate. Or J.J. Taylor. Or Shun Brown. Or any of those promising young defenders.
If you said Jace Whittaker then you and Pro Football Focus are on the same page, since the analytics site has the senior cornerback as Arizona’s top returner in terms of his 2017 performance grade:
Jace Whittaker returns as the highest graded Wildcat this fall pic.twitter.com/U2TBNswOaA— PFF College (@PFF_College) August 2, 2018
The 5-foot-11, 189-pound Whittaker is coming off a junior campaign in which he had three interceptions and a team-leading 13 pass breakups to go with 46 tackles. Two of his picks came in a home win over UCLA in October including one he returned for a touchdown.
Whittaker ranked 28th among FBS corners in 2017, per PFF, and his grade puts him just outside the top 10 among returners at that position. Pac-12 corners Nate Meadors of UCLA and Jordan Miller of Washington are tied for ninth-best at 85.6.
Tate ranks as the ninth-best returning Power 5 quarterback, grading at 84.4 in 2017, while Bryce Wolma (78.5) is considered the 10th-best returning P5 tight end.