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Arizona football notebook: Wildcats considering 3 options to replace Jordan Morgan at left tackle; running back room should be back to full strength.

arizona-wildcats-football-notebook-jordan-morgan-left-tackle-running-backs-oklahoma-alamo-bowl Zachary BonDurant-USA TODAY Sports

There are more than 80 FBS teams that have played, or will play, in bowl games this month and into January. And very few will be doing so with the same main contributors that helped get them into their respective bowl matchups.

Arizona, though, has as close to a full roster as anyone as it prepares to face Oklahoma in the Alamo Bowl on Dec. 28. Its only significant absence will be left tackle Jordan Morgan, who opted out to begin training for the 2024 NFL Draft.

The Wildcats know who will replace Morgan in the starting lineup, but not necessarily at that position. UA head coach Jedd Fisch said either Joe Borjon, Raymond Pulido or Jonah Savaiinaea will start at left tackle, with the other two at right guard and right tackle.

“Those three guys will be playing those three positions,” Fisch said. “Where they fit in has been a constant ... let’s call it a moving party.”

Savaiinaea has started all 12 games this season, 10 at right tackle and two at right guard. Pulido started four games at right guard, including the last three, and Borjon started at right tackle the two games Savaiinaea was moved inside.

Offensive line coach Brennan Carroll said Arizona has had the luxury of testing each player at left tackle thanks to the extra bowl practices. It also serves as early tryouts for 2024 when the Wildcats will need a new blind-side protector.

“It’s a really special opportunity for us because,” he said. “Usually, when you go week to week, it’s tough. This is a very unique situation. We’ll get a chance to try it out, see what the best fit is. All three of those guys ... have the ability to play tackle.”

Running back injury update

When Arizona crushed ASU 59-23 to retain the Territorial Cup it got a school-record 527 passing yards from Noah Fifita. That pass-heavy gameplan may have been at least partially dictated by the Wildcats being down two of its four regular ball carriers, as DJ Williams did not play and Jonah Coleman logged only 17 snaps before suffering an injury.

With more than a month for each to recover from their ailments, Fisch said both are expected to play in the Alamo Bowl. Each practiced this week, he said.

“My expectation, unless we have a setback over the course of the next six days, is that everybody will be available,” Fisch said. “And not just available, we’ll play in the same type of rotation that we had ... in the Utah game.”

Coleman had become the primary rusher after Michael Wiley suffered an ankle injury in late September, and leads the team with 851 yards and five touchdowns. Williams has run for 345 yards and four scores while Wiley has 292 yards and three TDs to go with five receiving TDs.

The Wildcats have averaged 148.9 yards per game, roughly the same amount Oklahoma allowed (147.8).

Gameplanning for Oklahoma’s altered offense

While Arizona will have all its offensive weapons at its disposal for the Alamo Bowl, and Fisch is likely to stick with the same kind of play calling that allowed the Wildcats to score 34.3 points per game. The same can’t be said for Oklahoma, which will be putting out an offensive unit that will have several new faces … and new play callers.

Offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby left to take over the Mississippi State program, with Joe Jon Finley and Seth Littrell taking over as co-offensive coordinators. Finley had been associate head coach and tight ends coach for the Sooners since 2021, while Littrell was an offensive analyst this season after spending seven years as North Texas’ head coach.

Littrell is a former Arizona assistant, coaching running backs and tight ends from 2009-11 and serving as offensive coordinator during Mike Stoops’ final two seasons in charge.

Finley and Littrell will be breaking in a new quarterback, as Dillon Gabriel went into the portal and has committed to Oregon for next year. He threw for 3,660 yards and 30 TDs, and in his place is freshman Jackson Arnold, who is 18 of 24 for 202 yards and two TDs but the bulk of that action came early in the season during blowouts.

“We’re going to practice what we saw on the film,” defensive coordinator Johnny Nansen said. “I don’t think they’re gonna install a brand new offense in three weeks. They still have great players.”

Other notes

  • The second linebacker spot alongside Jacob Manu has been Arizona’s biggest defensive question mark this season, with four different players starting in that spot including defensive back Martell Irby. One of those starters, Daniel Heimuli, has re-entered the transfer portal after coming over from Washingtin in the offseason.

Nansen said Justin Flowe has gotten the most reps during practice this month, while freshmen Taye Brown and Kamuela Ka’aihue should also see action in the bowl. Flowe made five starts this season, while Ka’aihue started the Territorial Cup

  • The future of a key member of Arizona’s defensive line became a little clearer Wednesday when Nansen said tackle Bill Norton will return in 2024. Norton has one season of eligibility remaining but participated in Senior Day last month.

“He better come back,” Nansen said of Norton, a Georgia transfer who started 11 games on the interior. “He doesn’t have a choice.”