Arizona’s roster went through a massive overhaul during the offseason, with more than 50 new players brought into the program for 2022, and no group had more turnover than the wide receiver room.
It’s not a coincidence that receiver is also the Wildcats’ most-improved position, top to bottom.
Arizona’s wealth of pass-catching riches was on full display in Saturday’s 43-20 win over Colorado, a game that saw Jayden de Laura tie the school’s single-game record with six touchdown passes while throwing for the fifth-most passing yards in school history. He has 14 TD passes this season, two more than Arizona threw all of 2021.
“I thought everything was working well,” said de Laura, who has topped the 400-yard passing mark in back-to-back games.
As good as de Laura has been this year, the guys he’s throwing it to have looked even better. Never was this more evident than against the Buffaloes, when the Three Amigos of Jacob Cowing, Dorian Singer and Tetairoa McMillan combined to catch 26 passes for 433 yards and three TDs.
Cowing, a transfer from UTEP, had 12 catches (one off the UA record) with 180 yards and his seventh TD of the season. Singer had nine grabs for 163 yards and his first career TD, which came on his 47th of 50 receptions in 10 games since making his collegiate debut as a walk-on in the second half of last season.
And McMillan, the highest-rated recruit in school history, had give grabs for 90 yards and a TD. Another 10 yards and he’d have given Arizona three 100-yard receivers for the first time since Mike Thomas, Terrell Turner and Anthony Johnson did so against New Mexico in 2007.
Cowing and Singer became Arizona’s first duo since 2012 to each have nine or more catches, and they’re the first UA pair with 160-plus receiving yards in a game since Bobby Wade and Andrae Thurman did it against Utah in 2002.
That’s a pretty good threesome. Possibly the best in the conference, UA safety Christian Young thinks.
“Going against them gets us, as a DB, greater,” Young said. “I feel like it helps us a lot, kind of takes pressure off us in a game.”
Defensive end Hunter Echols went one further, comparing them favorably to the future pro receivers he was teammates with at USC.
“I’ve seen Amon-Ra St. Brown, Tyler Vaughns, Michael Pittman and Drake London, all NFL guys,” he said. “This is the closest thing, a receiver corps, as I’ve seen to that.
“T-Mac is a beast, ya’ll seen it out there today, Dorian Singer is a beast, Jacob Cowing. It’s hard to guard those guys in practice, and you see it’s hard to guard them in games as well.”
Cowing, who is from just outside Phoenix, passed the 3,000-yard mark for his career on a 19-yard catch and run midway through the first quarter. He brought the ball that he caught to reach that milestone into the postgame press conference, having had it with him outside as he was reminiscing with his mother about his dreams as a kid of playing for Arizona.
“I wanted to kind of share that moment,” Cowing said.
Beyond just the numbers, what makes Arizona’s triplets so imposing are how each so unique. The 5-foot-11 Cowing is a YAC master, with 148 of his 180 receiving yards vs. Colorado coming after the catch, while the 6-1 Singer has shown off his tremendous hands the past two games and the 6-5 McMillan is the jump ball guy who can also catch one over the middle.
“When he first got here, like in the spring I think, when he first got here, I think his first catch ever at an Arizona practice was a one-handed catch on the sideline,” Echols said.
Five games in, several of Arizona’s season receiving records are in jeopardy. Cowing is only four shy of the single-season TD mark of 11, set numerous times and most recently by Shawn Poindexter in 2018. Cowing is also on pace for 96 receptions, three more than Wade had in 2002.
The UA has had only eight 1,000-yard receivers, never more than one in a season; both Cowing and Singer are on pace to top 1K, and if T-Mac has a few more games like this last one he could come close to quadruple digits.
And de Laura, who is averaging 326.6 passing yards and 2.8 TDs per game, could challenge Nick Foles’ UA season records of 4,334 yards and 28 TDs (a mark he shares with Willie Tuitama and Anu Solomon).
If those records don’t fall this season, how about 2023?
“As of now I think everybody can come back next year,” de Laura said, glancing over at Cowing. “So we’ll see how that works out.”