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Arizona Wildcats football all-decade team

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An up-and-down decade for the football program still produced some of their best players ever

<span data-author="5158751">scooby-wright-arizona-wildcats-american-alliance-football-cardinals-sun-devil-stadium </span> Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

To commemorate the end of the decade, we will be compiling an all-decade (2010-19) team for each of the major Arizona programs. Next up: football.

Perhaps no program at the University of Arizona had a more polarizing decade then the Wildcats’ football team.

On one hand, the decade started with one of Arizona’s best runs ever, frequently appearing in the AP Poll and even winning one of the most competitive Pac-12 South races ever in 2014. Plus, multiple Wildcats made their mark nationally and became household names.

On the other hand, Arizona’s second half of the decade was a struggle. The team only made two bowl games and never finished above 7-6 between 2015 and 2019.

With three different coaches leading the way, the Wildcats finished the decade 63-64, which certainly is not a good look for the program. Even with the multiple high points and special players, the 2010s will likely go down as a forgettable decade for Arizona football.

Those special players that made the decade worth watching still deserve a mention for their impact on the team. As such, here is the Arizona football all-2010s team. We chose enough players to fill out a starting lineup on each side of the ball for the Wildcats.

Quarterbacks

Nick Foles (2009-11)

Foles may have started his career in a different decade, but he emphatically finished it in the 2010s by becoming Arizona’s best quarterback ever.

Foles came to Arizona via transfer from Michigan State after graduating from powerhouse Westlake High School in Austin. Foles started at quarterback for most of 2009, and all of 2010 and 2011. Despite his 2011 season being one of the best for a quarterback in the country, the Wildcats went only 4-8 in Mike Stoops’ final season.

Foles ended his career with a completion percentage of 66.8%, with just over 10,000 passing yards and 67 touchdowns. He leads all Arizona quarterbacks in passing yards and is tied with Willie Tuitama for the career lead in passing touchdowns.

Running Backs

Ka’Deem Carey (2011-13)

In his three years in the Wildcat backfield, Carey helped build the program towards its recent peak of 2014, while also happening to be one of the best running backs in the nation.

Carey was one of the best high school prospects to come out of Tucson, graduating from Canyon del Oro in 2010. He was a role player in 2011, before exploding into the national spotlight in 2012. He led the nation in rushing yards that year, becoming a consensus All-American while also helping Arizona return to winning after a rough 2011. He also broke the school single-game rushing yard record, scampering for 366 against Colorado.

His 2013 season was more of the same, as he finished with the second-most rushing yards in Arizona single-season history...behind Ka’Deem Carey. He left the Wildcats after his junior season. Carey finished his career with 4,239 rushing yards and 48 rushing touchdowns, both of which are the best career marks for a Wildcat.

Wide Receivers*

Juron Criner (2008-11)

Criner was Foles’ favorite target for their entire Arizona careers, and was another of the most important players of Mike Stoops’ tenure in Tucson.

Criner came to the Wildcats from Las Vegas and cracked the rotation as a freshman, before becoming a starter as a sophomore. In his final three seasons, Criner made his case as one of the best Arizona receivers of all-time, especially with his impressive junior season in 2010.

He finished his career with 209 catches for 2,859 receiving yards and 32 touchdown, placing him fourth in receptions and receiving yards and first in receiving touchdowns in Arizona history.

Austin Hill (2011-14)

Not only one of the best receivers of the decade, Hill is responsible for the most memorable offensive play for Arizona this decade, the famous “Hill Mary”.

Hill played a small role in his freshman year in 2011, before becoming Arizona’s star receiver in 2012. After missing 2013 with a knee injury, Hill still made his impact in a crowded receiver room in his senior season, helping Arizona have its best season in 16 years, as well as catching the Hail Mary to beat Cal that eventually helped Arizona win the Pac-12 South.

Hill finished his UA career with 151 receptions for 2,310 yards and 17 touchdowns. His 2012 season, where he recorded well over half his career stats, ranks among the best for a receiver in Wildcats history.

Cayleb Jones (2014-15)

After one year at Texas, Jones transferred to Arizona and instantly made his impact as one of the most important players of the decade.

The former four-star recruit sat out 2013 before instantly becoming Arizona’s lead receiver in 2014. Jones led the receiving corps during that 10-4 season, and followed it up with a similarly impressive junior season in 2015 before declaring for the NFL Draft.

Despite only playing two years for the Wildcats on a team built to run the ball, Jones racked up 129 career receptions for 1,926 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns.

Samajie Grant (2013-16)

Every receiving corps needs a second big play threat, and Grant dutifully provided that during the middle of this decade.

Grant was one of the rare players who made an impact for four full seasons. After a solid freshman year, Grant had his best year in 2014, complementing Hill and Jones. In 2015, Grant’s numbers dipped, and he acted as a hybrid receiver/running back in 2016, but his receiving career still ended up one of the best in Arizona history.

Grant caught 145 passes for 1,639 yards for 12 touchdowns in his career, and also rushed for 462 yards as a senior.

*tight ends were barely used in this decade, so we went with four receivers instead

Offensive Line

Jacob Alsadek (2013-17)

Alsadek redshirted in 2013,before becoming an instant brick wall for the Wildcats in 2014 at right guard. He started in all but four games from 2014 to 2017, earning a Freshman All-American nomination in 2014 and near unanimous All-Pac-12 nomination in 2017.

With Alsadek paving running lanes, the Wildcats twice led the Pac-12 in rushing yards.

Layth Friekh (2014-18)

Freikh was trusted with protecting Arizona’s blind side and paving the way for a run-heavy offense for four years, and he rarely allowed defenders through.

After a redshirt year, Freikh started every game he was available to play in, missing a bit of his senior season due to NCAA issues. Nevertheless, Freikh was the centerpiece of Arizona’s left side of the offensive line for his entire career.

Gerhard de Beer (2013-17)

The most imposing South African to ever grace a football field, De Beer didn’t earn as many starts as other members of this list, with only 21, but his impact in those 21 starts and in his reserve appearances left a huge impact on the fanbase’s memory and eventually earned him some stints on NFL practice squads.

Cayman Bundage (2012-15)

Another four year starter for the Wildcats, Bundage was a critical piece of four of the best Arizona offenses ever. Bundage started from his very first game as a true freshman through his senior season, playing almost entirely left guard until injuries forced him to move to center.

Faabians Ebbele (2010-14)

The anchor of the offensive line for the first half of the decade, Ebbele started almost every game at right tackle from 2011-14. Towering at 6-foot-8, he helped turn Arizona into one of the best offenses in the nation during his tenure.

Defensive Line

Brooks Reed (2007-10)

Reed may have only played in one year of this decade, but he was undoubtedly one of the best Wildcats to participate in this decade.

Another Tucson product, this time from Sabino, Reed started for four years for his hometown university. Reed finished his career with 114 tackles, with 25 being for loss and 17 being sacks. His best year was his senior season in 2010, where he earned first team All-Pac-10 honors.

Reggie Gilbert (2012-15)

Gilbert played almost every game of his career, racking up 144 tackles, with 28 tackles for loss and 14 sacks in those four years. Most of those tackles were big hits, and he managed to force four fumbles as well in his career.

Ricky Elmore (2007-10)

Another player who barely reached this decade, Elmore’s monstrous 2010 season guarantees that he deserves this spot.

After a solid 2007 and 2008, Elmore exploded into the spotlight in 2009 with a great season. His 2010 was even better, with 49 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, and 11 sacks. Those huge season made up a sizable portion of his 128 career tackles and 25.5 career sacks. He earned second team All-Pac-10 honors.

Linebackers

Scooby Wright III (2013-15)

If any one player defined Arizona’s decade, it’s Wright, one of the most fun players in the entire nation in the 2010s.

Wright became an important member of the linebacking corps as a freshman in 2013, before turning in the best defensive season for any Wildcat this decade as a sophomore. Wright racked up 163 total tackles, with 31 being for loss and 15 being sacks.

On top of that, he forced five fumbles, with two of them being the most important takeaways in Arizona history (against Oregon and ASU). His 2015 season was cut short with injury, before he entered the NFL Draft.

Wright earned the Bronco Nagurski, Rotary Lombardi, Jack Lambert, and Chuck Bednarik Awards, as well as Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year—and finished ninth in the Heisman voting—in 2014. Only Tedy Bruschi has made a similar impact for Arizona at linebacker.

Colin Schooler (2017-present)

Nobody could possibly compare to Wright’s career at Arizona, but Schooler has put up a valiant effort and has gotten pretty close to the type of numbers Wright put up.

Schooler emerged as a star early in his freshman year, with a game-clinching interception to win at Cal. Since then, he has been the undisputed leader of the Arizona defense, roaming the middle of the field like a general.

In his three years thus far, Schooler has 313 total tackles, 46 tackles for loss, nine sacks, four interceptions (including a pick-six), three forced fumbles, and three fumble recoveries. Schooler is the first Arizona player since Marcus Bell to go over 300 career tackles, and he still has his senior season in front of him.

Marquis Flowers (2010-13)

As both a defensive back and linebacker, Flowers proved that the buzz regarding his recruitment was worth it.

As a high four-star prospect from Goodyear, Flowers is one of the most talented players to ever wear a Wildcat uniform. After a slow freshman year, Flowers had a solid season playing both as a linebacker and safety in 2011. In 2012 and 2013, Flowers acted as more of a pure linebacker, and ended up with two great years to show for it.

Flowers ended his Arizona career with 273 tackles, 27.5 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks, five interceptions (with one being for a touchdown), and three fumble recoveries.

Secondary

Shaquille Richardson (2010-13)

One of the most reliable defensive backs in school history almost didn’t come to Tucson. Thankfully he did, and he has an outstanding career to show for it.

Originally committed to UCLA, Richardson was dismissed from the Bruins before his freshman year. He came to Arizona, and instantly made an impact in his freshman and sophomore seasons. He emerged as a starter in his sophomore year, and started every game but two in his final three years.

Richardson finished his career with 186 tackles, 10 interceptions—one of which was returned for a score—and two forced fumbles.

Robert Golden (2008-11)

In the wake of Antoine Cason’s stellar career, someone needed to step up and become a star defensive back. Luckily for the Wildcats, Golden was on the roster in those years.

Golden had a minor role in his freshman year in 2008, much like Richardson after him. He still played in every single game of the year, and would play every game of his career. Playing at both cornerback and strong safety under Mike Stoops, Golden flashed his four-star talent throughout his entire career.

Golden finished with 183 tackles, a forced fumble, and four interceptions, half of which were touchdowns.

Dane Cruikshank (2015-17)

Perhaps the best JUCO transfer of the decade for Arizona, Cruikshank became Arizona’s ace in the hole in the latter part of the decade.

After starting his career with two stellar years at Citrus College in California, Cruikshank redshirted in 2015 and became Arizona’s featured cornerback in 2016 before successfully switching to safety as a senior.

Cruikshank wound up with 134 tackles, a forced fumble and a sack, and five interceptions in merely two seasons in the defensive backfield.

Will Parks (2012-15)

One of the most important pieces of Arizona’s best teams of the decades, Parks wound up helping the Wildcats win some of the most important games of the decade.

Parks started his career slowly, mostly acting as a reserve in 2012 and 2013. Once 2014 started, Parks became a key part of a solid defense, starting all 27 games of his junior and senior seasons. His impact was consistently felt in a defensive backfield that had to deal with a ton of pass-heavy offenses.

Parks finished his Arizona career with 197 tackles, 21 of which were for loss. He also intercepted four passes, two forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery.

Trevin Wade (2007-11)

Wade was another player who had to replace superstar Antoine Cason, and helped Golden turn the Wildcats secondary into a solid unit in Mike Stoops’ last few years.

Wade came to Arizona from Round Rock, Texas and redshirted his first season. After a surprisingly effective freshman year despite only a couple of starts, Wade ended up with three years of huge contributions as a starter for the Wildcats.

Wade finished his career with 182 total tackles, and an impressive 12 career interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns.

Kicker

Casey Skowron (2012-15)

Undoubtedly Arizona’s kicker of the decade, Skowron helped win multiple games during Arizona’s best run of the century.

Skowron started at kicker in 2014 and 2015, and ended up being one of the most reliable special teams players of the decade. He went 38-for-50 in his two years on field goals, and went 116-for-118 on extra points.

Punter

Drew Riggleman (2012-15)

Similarly to Skowron, Riggleman helped lead Arizona’s special teams unit during the Wildcats solid run from 2012 to 2015. Riggleman started his final three years at Arizona at punter. Known for his rugby-style punts, Riggleman kicked 184 times for 44 yards on average.

Kick Returner

Tyrell Johnson (2014-17)

Despite only being Arizona’s premier kick returner his freshman and senior years, Johnson was the most exciting player to return kicks in the decade for Arizona. He returned 81 kicks in his Wildcat career, averaging 23.9 yards per return in his four years.

Punt Returner

Shun Brown (2015-18)

After two years as a complementary receiver, Brown jumped into the spotlight on offense at the same time he became Arizona’s best punt returner of the decade. In only two years returning punts, Brown grabbed 38 punts, getting an average of 9.4 yards per return, along with two touchdowns in his junior season.