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Arizona football notebook: Former Wildcat star Bobby Wade coming back as WR coach, trio of defensive standouts announce return for 2024

arizona-wildcats-football-bobby-wade-receivers-coach-asu-duane-akina-dalton-stukes-maldonado-2024 David Wallace/The Republic via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Who says you can’t come back from the dark side?

Brandon Marcello of 247 Sports is reporting that former Arizona wide receiver Bobby Wade is joining Brent Brennan’s staff as receivers coach, doing so after spending the past two seasons as an offensive analyst at ASU.

Wade, 42, played for the UA from 1998-2002 and is the career leader in receiving yards with 3,351 as well as second in catches (230) and tied for fourth in touchdowns (23). He also holds the single-season receptions record of 93 and was inducted into the Ring of Honor in 2015.

A fifth round pick of the Chicago Bears in 2003, Wade played for five NFL teams during 7-year pro career. The Phoenix native joined ASU as a graduate assistant in 2019, coaching the Sun Devils’ receivers in 2021 before moving to an analyst role. Prior to his time with the Sun Devils Wade coached high school and youth football.

Wade’s time as a UA player coincided with Brennan’s, as he was a redshirt sophomore on the 2000 squad that Brennan served as a GA. Also on that team was linebacker Antonio Pierce, who also coached at ASU from 2018-21 and who on Friday was named head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders after serving as the team’s interim coach for the final nine games of the 2023 season.

Defensive trio coming back for 2024

While the future of other high-profile UA players remains unknown, three of the key members of the defense announced collectively they plan to return to the Wildcats for next season.

Cornerback Treydan Stukes and safeties Dalton Johnson and Gunner Maldonado are all set to come back for 2024. Maldonado and Stukes are entering their final seasons of eligibility, while Johnson will be a redshirt junior next year.

ohnson started all 13 games in 2024, while Maldonado and Stukes each had 12 starts for a defense that allowed just 21.1 points per game to tie for 30th in FBS. They combined for 222 tackles, 11 for loss, as well as six forced fumbles and two interceptions.

In the Alamo Bowl Maldonado had an interception and also returned a fumble 87 yards for a TD. Johnson was the one to force the fumble, and he added a career-high 13 tackles.

The trio has combined for 64 starts at Arizona.

All three will get another season working with Duane Akina, who has confirmed he’s returning to Arizona after briefly leaving for an off-field role at Texas.