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Playing time up for grabs for Arizona’s ‘young but talented’ wide receivers

arizona-wildcats-football-wide-receivers-depth-chart-2019-curry-dixon-joiner-peterson Photo by Ryan Kelapire

Cedric Peterson was pedaling on a stationary bike as his teammates stretched before Saturday morning’s “evaluative” scrimmage at Arizona Stadium.

When the game began, the senior stayed on the sideline. No need to force him into action.

“He’s having a great camp,” Arizona Wildcats head coach Kevin Sumlin later said of the team’s leading returning receiver. “We know what he can do.”

The rest of the receiving corps? Not so much.

The Wildcats have to reload after losing their top four pass-catchers from last season, and Peterson and former walk-on Stanley Berryhill III are the only returners with notable game experience—and they still only combined for 32 catches, 486 yards and six touchdowns in 2018.

The Wildcats list 18 receivers on their online roster, and Sumlin said he hopes to establish an 8- to 10-man rotation by the time the Aug. 24 regular-season opener at Hawaii rolls around.

“It could take a few weeks, but obviously we’ve got some time to figure out who those eight to 10 guys are,” he said.

Of those 18 receivers, 12 are on scholarship:

  • Cedric Peterson, Sr.
  • Stanley Berryhill III, RS So.
  • Jamarye Joiner, RS Fr.
  • Drew Dixon, RS Fr.
  • Boobie Curry, Fr.
  • Tayvian Cunningham, Jr.
  • Tre Adams, RS Fr.
  • Thomas Marcus, RS Fr.
  • Jalen Johnson, Fr.
  • Brian Casteel, RS Fr.
  • Jaiden Mitchell, Fr.
  • Zach Williams, RS Fr.

Offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone likes what he’s seen from them so far. Actually, that’s an understatement.

“Love ‘em,” he said. “The whole group, the inside guys, the outside guys. There’s obviously a lot of youth there, but a lot of talented youth. They have their growing pains like any youngster does, but I’m really excited about that whole group.”

Since Arizona is only a week into camp, reps have been split equally so far, Mazzone said. The coaching staff will start devising a pecking order in the next couple weeks.

“They’re young, but they’re talented and we just got to push them along because they’re all going to help us,” Sumlin said. “More than anything else, we want consistency, which we weren’t last year. And with some of these young guys we got to get them to that level and know what they can do. We’ve got some time to figure that out and (the scrimmage) was about that.”

Sumlin continued: “Some days these freshmen are lights out. And then we come back the next day and they’re like ‘what’s going on?’ So that’s part of the process and we’ve got some bigger guys, some talented guys, Boobie’s been doing great.”

Both Sumlin and Mazzone had high praise for Joiner, who this summer made the switch from quarterback, knowing the Wildcats had a need at wide receiver. Mazzone called it a “very selfless” move, and it could immediately pay dividends.

“He’s coming along quickly. He’s catching punts now, He’s all bought in,” Sumlin said. “He’s a bigger guy than you think he is out there and he’s explosive. He’s probably one of the top two, three athletes on this team. And he’s caught balls in the middle (of the field). The one thing you worry about moving guys out there is will you deal with it in traffic? He’s done it. He’s a competitor, it means something to him, he’s bought in... and I think the relationship with him and Khalil (Tate) in the quarterback room last year helps him a little bit because he likes him.”

Mazzone smiled when asked what makes the 6-foot-1, 210-pound Joiner such an intriguing target.

“Other than he’s big, he’s fast, he can run and he can catch, I don’t know,” Mazzone joked. “And what’s really good deal with him is he was a quarterback for years. He knows the offense. He understands how things are supposed to fit together. So, he’s....really a lot further ahead than I expected.”

Sumlin said Dixon, a redshirt freshman who played QB at nearby Sabino High School, is a “tremendous athlete” who is bigger and more comfortable in the offense this season, but needs to be more consistent.

Cunningham, a 5-foot-7 slot receiver from Sacramento City College, has drawn praise during training camp for his athleticism. Same with Johnson, a 6-foot-2 deep threat.

Sumlin noted that Adams, a 6-foot-4 target, has benefitted from the new redshirt rule, which allowed him to play 60 snaps last season, getting a taste of real game action.

“He’s got experience, but some of these other guys haven’t been on the field,” Sumlin said. “So some of these young guys have to come along, but I feel good about where they are right now.”