Arizona faced issues on its football roster in 2018, such as a lack of depth and size in the trenches. One recruiting cycle after a 5-7 season doesn’t immediately fix that, but Kevin Sumlin’s class featured enough 3-star players on both lines that will help those issues and others.
Of the 20 members of Arizona’s 2019 class, four transferred from junior colleges, meaning they won’t be considered in this story. With that in mind, which of the 16 true freshmen will be household names in Tucson by December?
The easy and cheap answer here is Jalen ‘Boobie’ Curry. The only 4-star prospect in the class, Curry is a product of Houston’s St. Pius X, a private school in one of the most talent-rich areas in the country. He’s also playing a position (receiver) where UA lost its four best 2018 contributors, meaning he could start day one out of sheer necessity.
Curry He was a high school teammate and favorite target of fellow freshman Grant Gunnell, a quarterback. It’s very unlikely Gunnell makes an impact this fall, with Khalil Tate in his senior year and three other QBs on the depth chart who were with the program in 2018. Still, he’s the second-highest rated QB on the team according to the 247 Sports, behind Tate, and the second-highest rated signee in 2019 by the same measure, so he could be the leader of the future.
A common complaint last season was that players in the trenches were undersized thanks to previous coach Rich Rodriguez’s recruiting. Despite this, Arizona’s offensive line was solid if not great last season, and the defensive line produced an NFL draftee in PJ Johnson. Other than Johnson, though, the D-line really struggled, and it seems that’s a place ripe for improvement. Which freshmen should you know there?
Two of Sumlin’s four JUCO signees were defensive linemen, and returner Kylan Wilborn showed flashes as a STUD. So freshmen will play depth roles this season, but that’s not a bad thing. Kane Bradford, a product of Dallas, is a big 6-foot-5, 275-pound end, and he could be asked to provide a pass rush that Arizona didn’t have in 2018. Kyon Barrs was rated lower in high school and plays the interior positions likely to be dominated by JUCOs Myles Tapusoa and Trevon Mason, but he could add size and depth immediately.
Arizona’s defensive backfield has six players who can form a pretty great unit this season, along with some depth below them. Still, four freshman join the cornerback corps. The most exciting is yet another Texas product—notice a pattern?—in Bobby Wolfe. Wolfe is from Houston’s Madison High School and was rated the 46th-best defensive back of the class by 247, and is the No. 3 signee in Arizona’s class. He’ll perform a depth role this year, but he could be the next leader of the defense after Colin Schooler leaves.
One more player to mention who will 100 percent see playing time in 2019: punter Kyle Ostendorp. Arizona relied on grad transfer Dylan Klumph in 2018, and it replaced him with the 11th-best punter in the 2019 class. Ostendorp was also one of very few Arizonans in the class, and it’s important Arizona keeps a Phoenix pipeline in addition to the budding Texas and Southern California ones.
The biggest impact player this year is almost assuredly going to be Curry. When you’re returning as much overall experience as Arizona, though, the incoming freshmen are meant to provide depth and learn enough so that they can lead in a couple of years. This class has plenty of chances to provide that, with Bradford and Wolfe standing out as likely impact players for 2019. The 2020 season could see a lot of new starters on both sides of the ball, and it’s likely plenty of members of this class will take on those roles.