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Arizona football: A look at the Wildcats’ running backs entering training camp

Second in a series

arizona-wildcats-football-preseason-preview-running-backs-michael-wiley-jonah-coleman-williams-luke Arizona Athletics

Arizona will begin preseason training camp on Wednesday, Aug. 2, a month of workouts and practices to get the Wildcats prepared for the 2023 season that opens Sept. 3 against NAU.

To get you primed for camp, we’re breaking down each position group on the roster. Today we focus on the running backs, who last year had zero fumbles in 313 touches.

Players on roster: 7 (6 scholarship, 1 walk-on)

Projected starter: Michael Wiley (Sr.)

Back for a fifth season after passing on the chance to enter the NFL Draft, Wiley heads into the fall having played in 39 games since 2019, most of any Arizona player other than long snapper Seth MacKellar (40). And he’s coming off his best year yet, with 771 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground along with three receiving scores.

There’s a lot of tread left on those tires, as Wiley has only carried the ball 266 times—Ka’Deem Carey had 300-plus carries in multiple seasons—and caught 95 passes. Another 10 catches and he’ll pass Vance Johnson for most in school history by a full-time running back.

Top backups: Jonah Coleman (Soph.), DJ Williams (Sr.), Rayshon ‘Speedy’ Luke (Soph.)

Every RB who carried the ball last season is back, and while Wiley will be the primary guy he won’t be a workhorse. Arizona regularly rotated at the position in 2023 and figures to do the same, with Coleman and Williams each bringing 225-pound frames in to pound through the tackles while Luke is the speedster that the Wildcats will want to get out on the edge.

Coleman, who switched jersey numbers (from 24 to 3) looked much faster during the spring. He had 75 carries for 372 yards and four TDs as a true freshman and if he can show improvement in the passing game he’ll be on the field much more this time around.

Williams should be in better shape from the outset after looking worn down late in the season, not a surprise with him joining the team just as camp began. Luke, an untapped resource to this point, missed six weeks in the middle of his true freshman year due to ankle surgery but looked just as fast upon returning to action.

Also expected to contribute: Brandon Johnson (Fr.)

A 3-star signee who participated in spring ball, Johnson ideally should redshirt this season because of the depth at the position. But if he has a good fall don’t be surprised to see the 5-9, 185-pound prospect get some run in those four games you can play without burning a year.

Next up: Wide receivers