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Pro Football Focus deep dive: How Arizona’s offense performed in nonconference play

arizona-wildcats-football-pro-football-focus-grades-analysis-sdsu-msu-ndsu-2022 Photo by Christopher Hook/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Arizona Wildcats are officially done with their out-of-conference schedule and came away 2-1. That wasn’t an easy feat to achieve playing the likes of San Diego State, Mississippi State and North Dakota State.

And with that, my deep dive looks at Arizona’s performance through the eyes of Pro Football Focus have returned.

Let’s start off with the offense throughout the first three games. See below for PFF’s grading scale.


Jayden de Laura
Noah Fifita
  • Highest/Lowest Overall: Jayden de Laura (81.2 vs North Dakota St) / de Laura (44.9 vs Mississippi St)
  • Highest/Lowest Passing: de Laura (79.8 vs North Dakota St) / de Laura (47.6 vs Mississippi St)
  • Highest/Lowest Running: de Laura (67.3 vs North Dakota St) / de Laura (59.7 vs Mississippi St)
  • Notes: The quarterback play has been much improved from last year. JdL has been as advertised. He has made really good decision for the most part. He had one down game against Mississippi State, but bounced back nicely against the Bison. The most impressive thing to me has been his ability and desire to learn and adapt. This was shown when he ran when he needed to against NDSU after struggling with that part of his game against the Bulldogs.

Moving to the true frosh, Fifita. He has a VERY bright future for Arizona. After coming in and showcasing excellent decision-making, and his infamous cannon, against MSU Arizona fans have a ton to look forward to in the future.

Running backs

Michael Wiley
D.J. Williams
Jonah Coleman
Speedy Luke
  • Highest/Lowest Overall: D.J. Williams (79.5 vs San Diego St) / Williams (54.1 vs Mississippi St)
  • Highest/Lowest Running: Williams (84.2 vs San Diego St) / Speedy Luke (58.2 vs San Diego St)
  • Highest/Lowest Receiving: Jonah Coleman (76.5 vs North Dakota St) / Williams (32.5 vs Mississippi St)
  • Highest/Lowest Pass Block: Michael Wiley (81.5 vs Mississippi St) / Coleman (22.0 vs Mississippi St)
  • Notes: The running back room is still strong, with the newcomers making waves. Williams has shown why the staff wanted to bring him in. He had a fantastic game against the Aztecs. He has fallen off a little but I wouldn’t expect that to last. Speedy and Little Jonah have also been great. LJ is a load to bring down and is an absolute beast, proving to be a weapon not only running the rock but catching passes out of the backfield. It would be nice to see more of Speedy lined up in multiple different spots all over the field. He showed off his speed against NDSU after busting a 28-yard run. He did end up getting an ankle injury, so we’ll have to see how long that lasts.

The biggest story is Wiley’s ascension. He looks and plays differently than previous seasons. He runs harder and has improved his vision, hitting the correct lane with power. To add on to his improved running style, he has built upon his reputation as a solid pass catcher out of the backfield. He should have a breakout season this year.

Besides Wiley, the room needs to improve on its pass blocking. With how often Jedd Fisch rotates backs, the others need to step up and get to Wiley’s level.

Wide receivers

Dorian Singer
Jacob Cowing
Anthony Simpson
A.J. Jones
Kevin Green Jr.
Jamarye Joiner
  • Highest/Lowest Overall: Jacob Cowing (90.3 vs San Diego St) / Dorian Singer (52.4 vs Mississippi St)
  • Highest/Lowest Receiving: Cowing (89.7 vs San Diego St) / Singer (53.6 vs Mississippi St)
  • Highest/Lowest Run Block: Cowing (61.4 vs San Diego St) / Tetairoa McMilan (35.3 vs Mississippi St)
  • Notes: The receiving corps is fun. Just flat out fun. Cowing is a beast. He shredded the Aztecs for over 150 yards and 3 scores. He did have a down day against MSU, though part of that has to do with how he was used, but he still managed to score another touchdown. He started slowly against the Bison, but once he got started, he took off. He ended up scoring the game winning touchdown on a well executed post in the end zone. Singer picked up where he left off last year and continued his production and had a solid game against NDSU. It’s also clear T-Mac is a big-hit option downfield for JdL. He has had his growing pains but he has also flashed sometimes as well. I expect him to only get better as UA gets into conference play.

There have been other receivers who have played but only sparingly. It’ll be interesting to see how the playing time shakes out as the season pushes forward.

Tight ends

Tanner McLachlan
Alex Lines
Keyan Burnett
Roberto Miranda
  • Highest/Lowest Overall: Tanner McLachlan (62.9 vs San Diego St) / Alex Lines (40.3 vs San Diego St)
  • Highest/Lowest Receiving: McLachlan (60.5 vs San Diego St) / Lines (36.5 vs San Diego St)
  • Highest/Lowest Pass Block: McLachlan (71.1 vs Mississippi St) / Lines (45.2 vs Mississippi St)
  • Highest/Lowest Run Block: Lines (75.0 vs North Dakota St) / McLachlan (40.2 vs Mississippi St)
  • Notes: Finally, after years of speculation and fans clamoring, Arizona has effectively brought the tight end position into the offense. And they are doing well. McLachlan is a stud. He has proven to be a fantastic addition to the team, so much so that he earned the last scholarship UA had available right before the season started. As of now he is Arizona’s fourth leading receiver. Lines hasn’t been as active in the passing game as he was last season, but he has been out there in the trenches blocking. He has some improving to do but he is still a solid player.

Keyan Burnett has made it on to the field to get some reps in and, interestingly enough, Roberto Miranda was used as a fullback against the Bison.

Offensive linemen

Josh Baker
Jordan Morgan
Paiton Fears
Josh Donovan
Big Jonah
Sam Langi
J.T. Hand
  • Highest/Lowest Overall: Jordan Morgan (90.0 vs North Dakota St) / Paiton Fears (41.5 vs San Diego St)
  • Highest/Lowest Pass Block: Josh Baker (84.5 vs Mississippi St) / Fears (5.4 vs San Diego St)
  • Highest/Lowest Run Block: Morgan (91.4 vs North Dakota St) / Josh Donovan (45.9 vs North Dakota St)
  • Notes: The offensive line has been a mixed bag. They had a VERY rough game against the Bulldogs. Baker had errant snaps, the run blocking wasn’t there, and they allowed a ton of pressure on JdL. The line was above average against SDSU to start the season, having good play and bad play throughout the game. They did allow pressure on JdL but only allowed one sack. That’s actually not bad. The line stepped up to the plate against an active Bison defense, and played VERY well.

Morgan was a wall, and has been to start the season. He is easily playing the best ball of his career. Fears struggled mightily against the Aztecs and gave up a ton of pressure against MSU. He settled down a little against NDSU. The key for him will be to carry that momentum into conference play. An under-appreciated player has been Sam Langi. He has come in and played all along the line, and with decent results.