Arizona’s offense was as good as its offensive line was in 2019, which explained why the results got so bad as the season went along.
The Wildcats averaged 37.2 points and 539.2 yards per game over the first five contests last fall, pacing a 4-1 start, only to drop the last seven games during which they averaged just 19.6 points and 369.3 yards.
So it goes when you have four linemen start each of the first five games, while two others split starts at the fifth spot, then because of injuries you had to trot out almost a different starting front every game the rest of the way.
“We had a different combination of five guys in 10 of our 12 ballgames,” coach Kevin Sumlin said during a Virtual Wildcat Chat posted on YouTube. “That’s the bad part about last year. The good news is this year all those guys have played, so they’re experienced, they know what they’re doing.”
Arizona returns eight offensive linemen who started at least one game, collectively logging 47 of 60 OL stars. Junior Donovan Laie and redshirt junior Josh McCauley started 12 and 10 games, respectively, while juniors Robert Congel (8), Paiton Fears (7) and Edgar Burrola (6) all started the majority of games, though Burrola may not be fully up to speed by the time the 2020 season is set to open Aug. 29 against Hawaii since he had surgery to repair a torn labrum in January.
Also back is rising sophomore Jordan Morgan, who started two of the final three games and is primed to be a full-time starter in 2020, while seniors Josh Donovan and Steven Bailey are also around to provide depth as well as the experience of each having logged a start last year.
Arizona loaded up on blocking beef in the 2020 recruiting class, signing six guys including junior college transfer Sam Langi and former Division II standout Matthew Stefanski. All told, the Wildcats have 16 scholarship offensive linemen, more than any other position on the roster.
“I think the biggest change for us this year, obviously, is going to be in our offensive line,” Sumlin said. “With Grant Gunnell as the returning quarterback, a guy who’s won games in the Pac-12, a guy who’s played with experience ... I think our offensive line and the stability in our offensive line is going to be a big difference for us offensively.”