As soon as the Arizona Wildcats sent their starting offense onto the field midway through the first quarter at Colorado on Saturday, it meant any chance of redshirting Michael Wiley had gone out the door.
Wiley, a true freshman running back, made his first career start in his fifth appearance in as many games this season. That put him one over the limit the NCAA allows for a player without using a year of eligibility.
Not that Wiley was ever going to redshirt, coach Kevin Sumlin said Monday.
“Michael Wiley was playing from Day 1, you saw that in Hawaii,” Sumlin said. “He’s a guy that wants to play and he can play.”
Wiley had one carry for two yards and six catches for 48 yards in the 35-30 win at Colorado. For the season he’s run for 51 yards and caught 11 passes for 129 yards.
“He does a lot for us,” Sumlin said. “He’s a back that can run it, he’s a back that can catch it. If you watch closely he’s covering kicks. He’s on the kickoff coverage, half the time he’s covering punts. He’s a guy that’s playing a lot of snaps, even when it’s not running back.”
Wiley was one of eight redshirt-eligible newcomers who played in their fifth game on Saturday. That included junior college transfers Tayvian Cunningham, Paiton Fears, Trevon Mason and Myles Tapusoa but also freshmen defensive backs Christian Roland-Wallace and Bobby Wolfe and freshman linebacker Derrion Clark.
“Bobby Wolfe and Christian Roland-Wallace were playing since Day 1,” Sumlin said. “There’s different conversations that go on with these guys, based on the depth of their position and where they are. There are other players that we pushed right up to the limit.”
That’s the case with freshman offensive lineman Jordan Morgan, who appeared in Arizona’s first three games but has been held out against UCLA and Colorado. He was in uniform in Boulder but wouldn’t have played unless the Wildcats experienced an injury at one of the tackle positions.
“He’s different than other guys, he’s practicing with the travel squad, he’s traveling,” Sumlin said. “He’s got to be ready to go. He’s still got another game, he’s played in three. If we have an emergency issue, he’s that guy. And if it’s a serious injury he understands he’s going to play the rest of the year. Everybody’s on board with that.”
Sumlin wasn’t asked about freshman quarterback Grant Gunnell, but figures to be in the same boat as Morgan in that Arizona would prefer not to use up a year of eligibility in 2019 but will have him ready to go if Khalil Tate’s injuries flare up.
The next to lose his redshirt is defensive lineman Kyon Barrs, who has played in the last four games after sitting out the opener at Hawaii and has become a fixture in the rotation up front. Same goes for long snapper Seth MacKellar, a walk-on, who has handled the role the last four games.
Receiver Boobie Curry, who missed the first three games with an undisclosed injury, has played the last two weeks and started at Colorado, catching his first career pass. Barring a physical setback, he figures to see significant playing time the rest of the season.
“He’s wanted to play the whole time and you can see he can have an immediate impact, like he did for us in the spring,” Sumlin said. “The only reason he wasn’t out there was because he was hurt. He’s wanting to play a lot more.”
To date, nearly every scholarship player Arizona added for 2019 has appeared in at least one game. The exception is offensive lineman Jamari Williams.