When the Arizona Wildcats line up against Hawaii on August 24 for their first offensive play of the new season, they will do so without their top four wide receivers from 2018 in terms of total catches, yards and touchdowns.
While the departure of that quartet—Shawn Poindexter, Shun Brown, Tony Ellison, and Devaughn Cooper—does leave a major void in the UA’s receiving corp, star quarterback Khalil Tate still figures to have plenty of familiar faces to target this fall.
Returning receivers like senior Cedric Peterson and sophomores Stanley Berryhill III and Brian Casteel all figure to step into larger roles in 2019.
Peterson spoke to the media after Arizona’s third day of fall camp on Monday night and acknowledged that as one of the team’s elder statesmen, he knows the time has come for him to step into a larger leadership role.
“Now I’m the head guy in the room, now I’m the leader for the first time,” he said to the assembled media. “It’s a little nerve wracking but I’m ready for anything. I’ve been preparing for this my whole life.”
The Southern California native finished with 18 catches for 268 yards and four touchdowns last season and said that his personal goals for 2019 are to improve on those numbers and do anything he can to put his team in a better position to win.
In terms of his goals for the team, he said that he wants the squad to prove some people wrong this year.
“Just do better than last year,” he said. “Just prove everybody wrong in what they had about us in these little preseason things.”
The “little preseason things” Peterson was referring to were seemingly Arizona’s projected fifth place finish in the Pac-12 South and their meager representation in the leagues preseason all-conference team.
“Everybody’s overlooking us as always,” he said. “It’s a motivation thing you know. A little chip on the shoulder.”
If the Wildcats are to prove people wrong like Peterson is hoping, the production of their receivers will be vital.
As will the play of some key newcomers.
True freshmen Jalen Johnson and Boobie Curry, plus Jamarye Joiner (who switched to receiver after redshirting last season at QB) and junior transfer Tayvian Cunningham all figure to be in the mix.
“A lot of the new guys they’re pretty much on board,” Peterson said. “A lot of them are mature and really came in with their heads on right and ready to compete coming into this season.”
Despite the typical optimism that comes with every fall camp, the fact of the matter is that Arizona lost 79 percent of its receiving touchdowns from last season.
If the Wildcats are able to replace that production, they could very well exceed expectations.
Peterson knows he will play a huge role in that, both on the field making plays and mentoring the younger guys off of it.
“As long as I can help my team out as much as possible, nothing else matters to me,” he said. “I know I’m going to do my part to help my team win.”