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. 5. Next up? The wide receivers!
- Key returners: Stanley Berryhill III (R-Jr.), Tayvian Cunningham (Sr.), Brian Casteel (R-Jr.), Jamarye Joiner (R-Jr.), Boobie Curry (So.), Ma’jon Wright (Fr.)
- Key additions: None
- Key departures: Drew Dixon
Arizona’s receiver room this fall is going to look a lot like it did a year ago, yet somehow much different than the one Jedd Fisch and his staff inherited in the winter. Confused? You’re not alone.
The Wildcats saw four of their top six pass-catchers from the COVID-shortened 2020 season enter the transfer portal in the wake of Kevin Sumlin’s firing, yet all four eventually decided to come back to the UA after hearing Fisch and wide receivers coach Kevin Cummings’ vision for the program. That includes two wideouts who committed to other schools before ultimately backing off those pledges.
Stanley Berryhill III, who led the UA in catches (23), receiving yards (227) and receiving touchdowns (3) last year, committed to Ball State on Dec. 28 but decommitted on Jan. 7, returning to the Wildcats on Jan. 12. His return set the stage for Jamarye Joiner, Boobie Curry and Ma’jon Wright to also come back, though Wright left a second time and signed with Middle Tennessee but only stayed there a month before coming back to Arizona over the summer.
That quartet have a combined 21 starts between them, while veterans Brian Casteel and Tayvian Cunningham add another 18 starts.
As a result, Arizona did not sign a wide receiver in the 2021 recruiting class and none of the 14 transfers it added in the offseason play the position. What the Wildcats have to work with is almost exactly what they had at their disposal a year ago.
Actually, there’s more. Sophomore Jalen Johnson, who was suspended for 2021 for violating COVID protocols, and redshirt freshman Jaden Mitchell, who has missed his first two seasons because of multiple knee injuries, are expected to be in the mix for targets. Same goes for sixth-year senior Thomas Reid III, who is also a special teams standout.
Having all that depth makes the news that Joiner, who had surgery on his left foot for a second time in the spring, won’t be ready for the start of camp easier to take.
We got a glimpse of which targets Gunner Cruz and Will Plummer worked best with, but the slate gets wiped clean with the arrival of South Florida transfer Jordan McCloud. He and the other QBs have a lot to work with, but it would be nice for one or two of these options to emerge as go-to ones.