The Arizona Wildcats may have found the solution to their wide receiver issue right in their own backyard.
Among the many guys that are getting a look at wideout during preseason camp are three Tucson-bred options, two of whom are converted quarterbacks, making it entirely possible that at some point this fall an entire on-field receiver set could be homegrown.
Not bad for a program that hasn’t exactly cleaned up in the local recruiting department of late.
Redshirt sophomores Stanley Berryhill III and Drew Dixon and redshirt freshman Jamarye Joiner are all in the mix at receiver, a position that returns less than 28 percent of the catches and less than 24 percent of the yards from 2018. Most of that production was from senior Cedric Peterson (18 catches, 264 yards) and Berryhill (14 catches, 218 yards), with running backs making up nearly all of the rest.
The 5-foot-10, 177-pound Berryhill, who began his prep career in Tucson before graduating from a school in California, emerged last season at receiver and kick returner. He was put on scholarship during fall camp and then caught a pass in each of Arizona’s first five games.
His 33-yard touchdown grab against USC on Sept. 29 marked the first time a Tucson-area player had caught a TD pass for the Wildcats since Cam Denson in November 2016.
“Stanley has been really, really solid,” Arizona coach Kevin Sumlin said after Saturday’s scrimmage.
Like Berryhill, this is Dixon’s third year in the program but first where he has a legitimate chance to contribute. A former do-everything star at Sabino—as a senior in 2016 he threw for 1,177 yards and 11 TDs, ran for 901 yards and 16 scored and had 514 receiving yards with six TDs—he was recruited to Arizona as a receiver but it was far from second nature for him entering college.
“Learning the coverages, how to run my routes against coverages, really just learning the position more,” Dixon said Monday, when asked what he’s learned about being a receiver, noting the technical things have been the hardest. “Learning releases and stuff that you’re not used to.”
At 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds, Dixon has a good frame for the position and that built knowledge of how a QB’s mind operates.
“But you still gotta get the bond with the quarterbacks here,” he said. “That bond is important.”
No one may know that better than Joiner, a dual-threat star at Cienega who was in the quarterback room all of last year and made a pair of brief midseason appearances against Cal and Utah. The arrival of much-praised true freshman Grant Gunnell in the spring likely contributed to Joiner asking to convert to receiver over the summer.
At 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds, Joiner hasn’t shied away from contact so far, Sumlin noted.
“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,” Sumlin said. “And he’s caught balls in the middle. He’s a competitor, it means something to him. He’s bought in.”
Offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone said last week that Joiner was “really a lot further ahead than I expected” considering the late position switch. Echoing that sentiment is senior safety Tristan Cooper.
“For him transferring from quarterback to receiver, he has done a great job,” Cooper said Monday. “And the crazy thing is he’s very physical. You wouldn’t think a stereotypical quarterback would be that physical, but he is strong as heck.”