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What condition are Arizona’s quarterbacks in heading into fall camp?

Arizona Spring Game
Will Plummer
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Welcome back to our annual series in which we try to determine if the Arizona Wildcats’ position groups are in strong, stable, unstable, or critical condition heading into fall camp, which opens Aug. 6. First up? The quarterbacks!

  • Key returners: Will Plummer (RS Fr.)
  • Key additions: Gunner Cruz (RS So.), Jordan McCloud (RS Sr.)
  • Key departures: Grant Gunnell, Rhett Rodriguez, Kevin Doyle Jr.

Unlike last season when Grant Gunnell was the surefire starter heading into fall camp, Arizona will have an open competition at QB to begin the Jedd Fisch era. Gunnell (Memphis) and longtime backups Rhett Rodriguez (UL Monroe) and Kevin Doyle (William & Mary) transferred away.

That leaves Will Plummer as the only returning QB with game experience, though not much. The second-year freshman appeared in three games last season and completed 43 of 80 passes for three interceptions and no touchdowns. He showed good arm strength but struggled with his accuracy and decision-making.

Perhaps Plummer’s most impressive contributions came as a runner. He averaged 31.7 rushing yards per game, including a long run of 26 yards. Plummer moves well for his 6-foot-1, 205-pound frame and seemed to have a good feel for when to take off.

Plummer battled Gunner Cruz, a Washington State transfer and fellow Arizona native, in spring ball. Cruz had a similar career with the Cougars, serving as a backup. His lone action came last season when he completed five of seven passes for 34 yards and a touchdown in emergency duty against USC.

Like Plummer, Cruz possesses some interesting physical tools. He’s 6-foot-5 with a strong arm and decent mobility. Fisch said during the spring that there is “not much separation” between the two. Reading coverages and picking up Fisch’s pro-style offense are priorities for them heading into the fall.

“They need to see (the defense) quicker, get (the ball) out faster,” Fisch said.

The same will be true for Jordan McCloud. The USF grad transfer is the most experienced QB on the roster but also arrives with the biggest learning curve as he was not with the Wildcats during the spring. He was completing his degree at USF.

McCould started 17 games for the Bulls over the past two seasons. In 2020, he completed 62 percent of his passes for 1,341 yards, nine touchdowns and two interceptions while rushing for 74 yards and a touchdown. That included a monster season finale against UCF in which McCloud threw for 404 yards and four touchdowns in a 58-46 loss.

Nathan Bond of The Daily Stampede told us that “between 0-20 yards he’s as accurate as you can be. He’s a smart decision maker. He’s grown into a leader on the team, and it showed on the field.”

On the flip side, Bond said that McCloud’s arm strength and tendency to fumble are his weaknesses. However, if he can learn the offense quick enough, his experience and leadership qualities alone could make him the frontrunner for the starting job.

“He’s going to be a steady hand for the offense,” Bond told us. “If you need a game manager he’s your guy. He’ll have games where he looks like a star, but then had some absolute stinkers. His value as a person off the field will help build a program’s culture under a new head coach.”

Condition: Unstable

While Arizona has options and some intriguing talent at quarterback, right now the position is characterized more by potential than proven production. Pro Football Focus graded Arizona’s QB room as the worst in the Pac-12 and outside the top 100 in the country.

It could make for another rough season if no one emerges and Arizona’s defensive struggles continue under the new coaching staff.