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5 Arizona Wildcats to watch vs. BYU

Some new faces will be in big roles

Arizona v BYU Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Arizona Wildcats are under a week away from facing the BYU Cougars to kick off the 2018 season.

The new coaching staff, a load of returning youngsters and a favorable schedule make this a highly anticipated season.

Also adding to the excitement are guys who are expected to play big roles this season after a long off-season of hype.

Here are five players to watch on Saturday night.

Shawn Poindexter

Well, this is it for Poindexter, as he enters his third season at Arizona. The 6-foot-5 mystery receiver on National Signing Day in 2015 and has totaled just 25 catches for 376 yards and a touchdown in two seasons.

He has the size you crave as a go-to outside receiver but the production just hasn’t been there. However, there was some chemistry brewing late last season between him and Khalil Tate.

Tate has excellent touch on the deep ball and Poindexter provides a clear height mismatch. It’s hard to expect a 100-yard game to open the season, but you’re hoping the two get in rhythm against BYU and open up the rest of the offense.

Gary Brightwell

Nathan Tilford had his chance, but it was Gary Brightwell who stepped up for the No. 2 running back spot, despite being ranked 1,455 spots below Tilford in the 2017 recruiting rankings.

But Brightwell serves as an all-purpose back, and will be getting a significant amount of carries and looks out of the backfield in Noel Mazzone’s offense.

J.J. Taylor is the go-to guy, but Brightwell is going to be a big part of the offense and could hit the century mark in yardage against BYU.

PJ Johnson

If there’s an immediate impact player from the 2018 recruiting class, it’s junior college transfer PJ Johnson.

The 6-foot-4, 335-pound defensive lineman is coming off a great fall camp and will likely be starting at nose guard to occupy and disrupt the gaps for the young core of linebackers behind him.

Marcel Yates needs significant improvement on defense and getting things going up front will certainly help.

Tim Hough

Arizona lost Jhevon Hill and Tony Wallace to academics late in the summer, but suddenly landed UNLV grad transfer Tim Hough, who was set to enroll at Oregon.

There are very few options at corner for Arizona right now, and despite missing the first week o fall camp due to the admissions process, he will still likely get thrown into action against BYU.

Hough is an experienced corner and a well-rounded package. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him push Lorenzo Burns for the starting role this season.

Dylan Klumph

There weren’t too many good things to say about the punt team last season. Poor long snapping and bad punts put Arizona in awful position to win games.

Now they have both a solidified long snapper with Nick Reinhardt returning from injury and Cal graduate transfer Dylan Klumph happens to be one of the best punters in the Pac-12.

He averaged nearly 44 yards a punt at Cal and says the dry air and elevation are favorable for punting, giving Arizona a much-needed boost on special teams.