The Arizona Wildcats enjoyed a lot of continuity going into 2018, especially in the passing game. We all know last year’s squad was a bit of a disappointment, but the Wildcats have accomplished a rare feat: returning most of their starters two years in a row. Only one position was decimated by loss of production this summer: receiver.
Shawn Poindexter, Shun Brown, and Tony Ellison provided great variety in the passing game for Khalil Tate. But all three were seniors and Arizona’s fourth option, Devaughn Cooper, looked to be an explosive fallback plan going into 2019, but he was dismissed from the team in May.
That quartet accounted for 75 percent of Arizona’s receiving yards and 23 of its 29 touchdown receptions.
Losing the four best wideouts on any team is dangerous, even for a team that is experienced at pretty much every other offensive position.
Both Rich Rodriguez and Kevin Sumlin knew there was going be major turnover at receiver in 2019, and as a result there’s still plenty of options on the roster.
The 2018 recruiting class featured five receivers, all of whom were redshirted, and the 2019 class featured four-star receiver Boobie Curry, a high-school teammate of highly-touted quarterback recruit Grant Gunnell.
If Curry redshirts, he can still play in four games this year, and it’ll be exciting to see how he’s utilized. Among the redshirt freshmen, Thomas Marcus and Zach Williams provide height to replace the 6-foot-4 Poindexter. Also look for gray shirt Jaden Mitchell, who had a promising spring, to see the field fairly often in his return from a knee injury.
So which veterans will see the field? Two seniors remain in Terrence Johnson and Cedric Peterson. A walk-on, Johnson hasn’t seen the field yet, but Peterson is the top returning player in the receiving corps, with 18 receptions for 264 yards and four touchdowns. He’s almost certain to be a starter all year, and potentially a leader of the offense.
Among sophomores and juniors, Stanley Berryhill III and Thomas Reid III are promising returning players. Berryhill had 14 receptions last year despite all the upperclassmen above him, while Reid only had one reception, shining as a special teams player.
Two more players to look out for are sophomore Drew Dixon and junior Brian Casteel. Neither had a touch last season, but were among the top performers in spring football. Casteel will at least see action in special teams and could easily be a starter, while Tucson native Dixon is expected to be on a bigger stage since he’s no longer a freshman.
Since we’re talking about the passing game as a whole, one wild card is tight end Bryce Wolma. He saw some action last year and proved himself reliable, but considering Sumlin’s offense it’s unlikely that he’ll be used too often. Still, he’s a proven target on a team that desperately needs them, so his production will almost certainly go up at least a touch.
Overall, Peterson should be expected to lead the way, with Berryhill and perhaps Casteel filling out the starting trio, and someone like Curry and/or Dixon pushing them hard for playing time.