The Arizona Wildcats are healthy in more ways than one heading into Saturday’s season-opener vs. BYU.
Not only has every player, coach and staff member in the program been vaccinated against COVID-19, the Wildcats are also devoid of any major injuries, aside from wide receiver Jamarye Joiner, who is working his way back from offseason foot surgery. He is expected to return by the beginning of Pac-12 play.
“We are in a good spot in terms of everybody should be practicing, I believe, this week,” Fisch said, adding that Arizona does not have any season-ending injuries that he knows of.
Yes, that means those defensive players who missed time in fall camp are slated to play against BYU.
“I feel good about Jalen (Harris) and Mo (Diallo), and then Tre (Mason), JB (Brown), Kyon (Barrs) and Paris (Shand) all being available (on the defensive line), plus other guys may get opportunities to get certain reps in there as well. Tank (Wilson) is another one,” Fisch said. “And at linebacker, you’ve got Tre (Hayward), you’ve got (Anthony) Pandy, Jerry (Roberts), Kenny (Hebert) and Rashie (Hodge) and Malik (Reed). They’ll be rotating in different packages based on what we’re trying to get done defensively, but I would assume we’ll see all six of those backers and all seven or eight of the defensive linemen playing.”
Of course, everything can change on a moment’s notice, particularly when it comes to COVID-19. Fisch said the Wildcats are traveling to Las Vegas on Friday and players will only be allowed to interact with their team once they arrive in order to prevent possible exposure to the coronavirus.
“We made vaccinations an enormous priority. ... We also understand that there’s breakthrough cases and that COVID is the real deal, that we have to make sure that we don’t lose guys,” Fisch said. “So we let them know that every day is a game, every day it’s a competition. Friday night, you’re competing. You’re competing against BYU, you’re competing against the rest of the country.
“Are they going to get COVID? Are you going to get COVID? Are you going to be able to avoid getting sick? Are you going to be able to avoid missing time? And with that comes every decision you make. It’s really important for us to make smart decisions and wise decisions so we don’t run into a problem, or we lose guys because of a Friday night or Saturday night out and socialize with people that have COVID.”
That will be a big emphasis all season, as the Pac-12 announced that teams that cannot field a playable roster due to COVID will have to forfeit.