Arizona Wildcats center Josh McCauley went viral last September when he slapped Houston Cougars All-American Ed Oliver on the helmet to draw an offsides penalty.
It perhaps was the only time all season McCauley made a headline, but he was an unsung hero of Arizona’s offense. The sophomore played every snap of every game, as he filled in for Nathan Eldridge, who missed the entire season with a knee injury.
“He’s the ironman,” offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone said of McCauley. “... He had to take every snap at center. I mean, it’s really a hard game to play if you can’t get a snap and then you’re in Shotgun, which even multiplies that, right?
“But he had to take every snap in practice, do it during the week, and then just about every snap in the game. So yeah, Josh is one of those things you don’t notice how much help he is or how good he is for you unless you don’t have him. So he was always there for us. And he’s done a great job for us.”
When you hear Mazzone heap that kind of praise on McCauley, it is then befuddling to hear his answer when asked if McCauley, still a walk-on, is deserving of a scholarship.
“That’s not in my pay grade,” Mazzone deflected.
McCauley maintained that earning a scholarship is a goal of his, but then said he is not frustrated that he hasn’t been awarded one.
“I’m trying to get through spring ball and then see where it goes from there,” he said.
McCauley, who says he is his toughest critic, thought he could have been “a lot better” last season, particularly when it came to pass protecting against bigger, stronger linemen. The Mesa native is only listed at 6-foot-3, 292 pounds, making him undersized in era in which sub-300-pound offensive linemen are a dying breed.
“Not getting pushed back as much, keeping that good, crisp, clean pocket,” he said of what he wants to work on. “It’s technique thing. I gotta keep working on my hands, my feet, all that, bring everything together.”
McCauley was the most stable part of Arizona’s ever-changing offensive line in 2018. He was the only player to start in the same spot in all 12 games. Donovan Laie and Cody Creason also started in every game, but did so at two different positions, having to make up for injuries to right guard Bryson Cain and left tackle Layth Friekh in addition to Friekh missing two games due to an NCAA suspension.
“As an o-line group, I thought we threw a pretty good group together and we did some things, but it obviously wasn’t good enough because 5-7 wasn’t good enough,” McCauley said.
McCauley is projected to keep his starting job in 2019. He would prefer not to keep his status as a walk-on.
“That’s every walk-on’s goal,” he said of possibly earning a scholarship. “But I’m just here to do my job.”