After a week off, the Arizona Wildcats return to action Saturday when they will host Northern Arizona, looking to bounce back from a tough loss to Hawaii.
Here are some UA players to keep an eye on in the home opener.
Bobby Wolfe, CB
No. 2 cornerback Lorenzo Burns suffered a head injury against Hawaii and did not return to the game. His status for Saturday is unclear, as head coach Kevin Sumlin does not discuss injuries with the media. Sumlin also mentioned freshman cornerback Christian Roland-Wallace was hobbled in the Hawaii game by an injury that affected his mobility.
If those two cannot play or are limited, true freshman Bobby Wolfe should get an extended look. Sumlin thought the former four-star recruit played well when his number was called against Hawaii, and another strong performance against NAU could make him a permanent fixture in the secondary.
“Bobby is really athletic, really fast,” Sumlin said. “We put him in some man-to-man situations against a real receiver and he covered him. And he made some really good tackles in open space. That can give us confidence. It gives us the opportunity to move Jace (Whittaker) around a little bit. We know what we have in Jace, we know what we have in some of these other guys, but we’re going to get to (face) three, four, five wides. We’ve got to be able to put some cover guys on the field.”
Michael Wiley, RB
Since this game probably won’t be close, Arizona will be careful with the amount of touches J.J. Taylor gets. While junior Gary Brightwell did a nice job as Taylor’s backup last season, eclipsing 500 yards, he did not receive a single carry against Hawaii.
Instead, the backup role was consumed by true freshman Michael Wiley, who had three carries, caught three passes for 50 yards, and was singled out by Sumlin as one of the bright spots in the opener.
That said, Wiley’s three carries only produced three yards, so Saturday should give us a better idea of what he can add in the ground game—and if he truly is Taylor’s backup or if Brightwell’s absence against Hawaii was simply an aberration.
Sumlin said Monday that he does not view Taylor as “a 30-touch-a-game guy” so the backup spot is more important than you think.
Boobie Curry, WR
The true freshman wideout was listed as a co-starter on the depth chart, but was pretty much invisible against Hawaii, not even receiving a target.
Since Curry is an obvious redshirt candidate—all true freshmen are—he has three more games to prove that he is capable of contributing this season. Otherwise, we might not see him back on the field until 2020 as a redshirt freshman.
Jalen Harris, DE
Harris didn’t hide his disappointment in himself and the pass rush against Hawaii when he spoke to reporters on Tuesday, so let’s see if he can create some havoc against Northern Arizona.
Harris emerged late last season and followed it up with a strong offseason, making him everyone’s favorite breakout candidate heading into 2019.
It’s time to prove the hype is warranted.
Edgar Burrola and Paiton Fears, RT
Burrola and Fears played 37 snaps apiece against Hawaii, as the battle at right tackle is too close to call right now.
Sumlin said the two “probably will continue on that path” so the NAU game will be a chance for one of them to create some separation.
Arizona had trouble pass-blocking on that side at times against Hawaii, and needless to say having similar issues against NAU would be majorly concerning with far more talented teams remaining on the schedule.