Earlier this week, we looked at five returning players who are due for breakout seasons with the Arizona Wildcats.
Today, we are shifting gears to the newcomers. Here are six that should make a difference from day one.
Jalen ‘Boobie’ Curry, WR
Who is he? Curry is a former four-star recruit from St. Pius X High School in Houston, Texas where he was teammates with UA freshman quarterback Grant Gunnell. The 6-foot-2 Curry racked up 1,946 receiving yards, 21 touchdowns and 153 career receptions in just 17 high school games.
Why he’s due: Arizona has to replace its top four receivers from last season, so it is a free-for-all at the position right now when it comes to playing time. Curry appears to be high in the pecking order, listed as one of the starters at outside receiver. But since he is a true freshman, it will be important for him to get off to a hot start so that the coaching staff does not consider redshirting him after four games.
They said it: “We’ve got a plethora guys that is out there getting it on. Boobie’s going to be really good here once he adjusts to the speed.” — cornerbacks coach Demetrice Martin
Christian Roland-Wallace, CB
Who is he? Williams is a 5-foot-11, 198-pound cornerback from Palmdale, California who also had offers from Nevada and Oregon State, among others. He had 51 tackles (three for loss), five interceptions, two pass breakups, and one forced fumble as a senior.
Why he’s due: Roland-Wallace is ahead of the curve compared to most freshmen, both physically and mentally, having joined the Wildcats in the spring. Arizona is going to lean on veterans like Jace Whittaker and Lorenzo Burns at cornerback, but others will be counted on to fill in at times, and so far Roland-Wallace has earned trust from the coaching staff, which listed him as Whittaker’s backup.
They said it: “He’s big, he’s fast, he’s mature, and he gets it off the field. And that’s the one thing I think has kind of gone overlooked. ... But when you look at the way our guys performed in the classroom this past spring, guys are starting to figure it out a little bit. So once you get a program where guys understand how important it is to get education and get a degree off the field, then you can count on him to be more consistent on the football field.
“Most young guys it takes them a while to figure that out. They are away from home for the first time, so they’re kind of trying to feel their way a little bit. He’s a guy that stepped in here from day one and was mature and wanted to play and he’s always studying in there with Coach (Martin), watching a film all the time. He’s just a gym rat.” — Arizona defensive coordinator Marcel Yates
Paiton Fears, RT
Who is he? Originally from Florida, Fears attended Hutchinson Junior College in Kansas last season. 247Sports ranked him as the No. 109 junior college prospect in the country. He is listed at 6-foot-5, 308 pounds.
Why he’s due: Fears is competing with redshirt sophomore Edgar Burrola for the starting right tackle job, as both were listed as co-starters on the first depth chart that was released Monday. Even if Fears loses that battle, he will likely be the team’s swing tackle, filling in for Burrola and/or Donovan Laie if unforeseen circumstances arise.
They said it: “I really see both Edgar and Paiton over on the right side just really improved because they’re kind of battling back and forth, which is awesome. Because now we’re feeling that we’ve got three tackles, and that we can swing a tackle out of one of those guys.” — offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone
Samari Springs, CB
Who is he? The son of former NFL Pro Bowler Shawn Springs, Samari is a junior transfer from Richmond, where he had 95 total tackles, 5.0 tackles for loss, and three interceptions in two years as a starter at safety.
Why he’s due: While Richmond is not FBS, Springs already has a sizable amount of experience as a starter and his learning curve should not be as steep as, say, a true freshman cornerback, though he does have to perfect his technique as he switches from safety. Springs is listed as Lorenzo Burns’ backup and should be an immediate impact player on special teams if nothing else.
They said it: “He’s kind of a tweener. He played safety and played corner and he’s very athletic. I mean, it’s rare that you find a guy that late. He showed up and his dad said he wants to be a Wildcat, and they waited until we can bring him after spring ball, and he’s come in and done a great job, learning the scheme and helping out on special teams. He’s been a big plus for us on defense.” — linebackers coach John Rushing, who recruited Springs to Arizona
Trevon Mason & Myles Tapusoa, DL
Who are they? Mason and Tapusoa are big defensive linemen that are arriving from junior college. Mason, listed at 6-foot-5 and 310 pounds, had 26 tackles and two sacks last season at Navarro Community College in Texas. He joined the team just before the start of fall camp. Tapusoa, who enrolled in the spring, had 56 tackles along with 11.5 tackles-for-loss and two sacks last season at Eastern Arizona College. He is listed at 6-foot-1 and 330 pounds.
Why they’re due: Mason and Tapusoa give Arizona some size up front that it has been sorely lacking in recent seasons, so it is not a major surprise that they are listed as starters. But it will be interesting to see not only how effective they are at the major-college level, but how many snaps they can play. Both had issues with conditioning when they first arrived.
They said it: “They’re coming along just fine right now. Both of those guys came in knowing that endurance and conditioning was going to be a concern. But through the camp, watching these guys, the amount of reps that they were taking and through those reps to get in shape, they’re doing a good job of understanding what we want for them and the job that they got to get done.” — defensive line coach Iona Uiagalalei