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Arizona football’s top 5 breakout players from spring practice

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These five are in line for much bigger roles in 2019

NCAA Football: Arizona State at Arizona Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

Spring football is officially in the books for the Arizona Wildcats, the second spring under head coach Kevin Sumlin.

Sumlin has now had a full year to assess the talent level, change levels and add a few of his own players through recruiting as Rodriguez era players begin to phase out.

The roster is littered with young talent and potential on both sides of the ball. There is still some turnover and uncertainty at some positions, but there are some guys who have either made a big jump from last season or impressed the staff since their arrival on campus.

Jaiden Mitchell, WR

After tearing his ACL in high school, greyshirting, and having the uncertainty of his future at Arizona after the coaching change, it appears as if Mitchell is in prime position to crack the receiver rotation in his first spring.

Being a year and a half away from football certainly seems to have benefited him now, growing much stronger and faster than before his injury.

Coaches and players raved about him after just a few practices, many saying he’d be starting if the season had started in the next week.

Chris Roland-Wallace, CB

Arizona held off USC late in the recruiting process and Roland-Wallace ended up enrolling early at Arizona, which has allowed him to impress the coaches early in his career.

A dynamic playmaking athlete at receiver and safety in high school, he’s now sliding down into corner and despite the talent at the position, it seems like he won’t be needing a redshirt year.

He’ll also be contributing heavily on special teams. At 5-11, 198 pounds he’s physically ready to contribute.

Drew Dixon, WR

Dixon played about half a dozen positions in high school, mainly quarterback, but joined Arizona as a wide receiver.

The big, strong prospect has been in development the past two seasons and with three veteran receivers gone from last year, Dixon might be close to earning significant reps.

Arizona has a lot of young size at receiver, but none quite with the combination of size and strength that Dixon possesses.

McKenzie Barnes, CB

A long, rangy corner from the 2018 recruiting class, Barnes quietly snuck into the corner rotation last season after a brutal stretch of injuries, dismissals and position changes.

He is one of three true freshmen who burned their redshirt last season and now appears to be a true staple to the corner rotation, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him start alongside Jace Whittaker.

He capped off his impressive spring with two interceptions in the spring game.

Edgar Burrola, OL

One guy who I don’t think got enough attention this spring was Edgar Burrola, who had spent a good chunk of the spring season as the starting right tackle.

He sat out for a portion of his senior season at Desert Pines High due to a shoulder injury as he entered the program in 2017.

He was listed on the two-deep for much of last year and saw some action but now appears to be a serious contender to win a starting job.

Paiton Fears, the junior college transfer, was brought in to help contribute immediately at tackle. While he has had an impressive spring to start his career at Arizona and perhaps more skilled and experienced, Burrola is going to make this a close competition until the end.


There were quite a few guys who had their name called out this spring. None more than Jalen Harris, who has continued to bulk up. While he’s on track to be one of the best pass rushers in the Pac-12, in my opinion, he already broke out onto the scene last season starting in Pac-12 play when he took over the starting job. But now it seems like people are finally paying attention to him.

Donovan Laie, who put together an excellent spring, is similar in that he took over a starting role and made huge improvements in the spring. He entered the program as a true freshman and started at tackle, and looks to project on a high curve.

Along the defensive line, Nahe Sulunga and Jalen Cochran also had good springs. Sulunga, now in his second season, has improved and Cochran has now moved inside to a better role.

Quite a few other receivers were in the mix, Tre Adams seems to have put together a nice couple of weeks, and Brian Casteel has shed some weight and been involved as the primary punt returner as well. And of course Jalen Curry, a four-star prospect from this 2019 class, has been an obvious pick to start at receiver.