Now that they have finalized their coaching staff, the Arizona Wildcats can shift all of their attention to player personnel. They still have work to do.
The commitment of three-star all-purpose back Frank Brown on Tuesday raised Arizona’s total of known 2020 signees and/or commits to 14 – 15 if you include linebacker Jabar Triplett, who wasn’t on the official list for December but has given every indication that he’s coming. If two others in that committed-but-not-yet-signed category – offensive lineman Cedric Melton and cornerback Alphonse Oywak – follow suit, the Wildcats would have 17 additions. They have room for the full 25.
What areas does Arizona need to address? We took a look at the current roster – returning players plus signees – to find out.
What follows is a position-by-position breakdown entering a critical recruiting period ahead of National Signing Day on Feb. 5. Before we dig down, here are some notes about the overall construction of the roster as of this writing:
- Arizona has 73 scholarship players – 60 returnees and 13 signees (including graduate transfer Brenden Schooler). The maximum allowable total is 85. The Wildcats were in the low 70s for most of last season.
- The 73-man scholarship roster consists of 39 offensive players, 31 defensive players and three specialists. Given those numbers – and others we’ll get to later – it’s pretty obvious which side of the ball Arizona needs to address as it closes out this class.
- By class, the roster has 20 seniors (including redshirts), 18 juniors, 20 sophomores and 15 freshmen. Even with more freshmen coming, Arizona will have a greater percentage of upperclassmen than in recent seasons. As such, it’s imperative that the UA compile full recruiting classes, or close to it, this year and next. (Note: A handful of players’ classes are listed differently on the official online roster. Our projections are based on the redshirt rule that went into effect in 2018.)
By class (as of 2020): 1 redshirt junior (Rhett Rodriguez), 1 redshirt sophomore (Kevin Doyle), 1 sophomore (Grant Gunnell), 1 freshman (Will Plummer)
Notes: Four is about the right number for this position. Rodriguez should have two years of eligibility left after appearing in only one game last season. Gunnell enters spring practice as the favorite to start in ’20, but Doyle deserves a fair chance to compete for the job. Ideally, Plummer – supremely talented but still somewhat raw – will redshirt this season.
By class: 1 SR (Gary Brightwell), 1 RS JR (Nathan Tilford), 1 RS SO (Bam Smith), 1 SO (Michael Wiley), 1 FR (Jalen John)
Notes: As mentioned above, Brown is set to join this group, bringing the total up to six. It’s a bit of a crowded room, and it’ll be challenging to find touches for everyone. But it’s also a position that’s more susceptible than most to attrition. Additionally, Brown and Wiley are capable of lining up outside as receivers.
By class: 2 RS SR (Thomas Reid III, Brenden Schooler), 1 SR (Tayvian Cunningham), 3 RS JR (Stanley Berryhill III, Brian Casteel, Drew Dixon), 2 RS SO (Tre Adams, Jamarye Joiner), 2 SO (Booby Curry, Jalen Johnson), 1 RS FR (Jaden Mitchell), 3 FR (Dyelan Miller, Roberto Miranda, Majon Wright)
Notes: This is a really crowded room, although it should be noted that Arizona often plays four wideouts at a time, so there are plenty of snaps to go around. The Wildcats used all sorts of different combinations in 2019, and more of the same is expected this year. If Arizona is unable to add anyone at safety, could someone from this group move there?
By class: 1 SR (Bryce Wolma), 1 JR (Stacey Marshall Jr.), 1 RS SO (Zach Williams)
Notes: Arizona added JC transfer Marshall after Jake Peters entered his name in the NCAA transfer portal and Drake Dabney decommitted. Marshall is an excellent blocker, which has been the primary duty for tight ends here in recent seasons. That could change with Gunnell at quarterback.
By class: 3 RS SR (Steven Bailey, Bryson Cain, Josh McCauley), 3 RS JR (Edgar Burrola, Robert Congel, Josh Donovan), 2 JR (Paiton Fears, Donovan Laie), 1 RS SO (David Watson), 1 SO (Jordan Morgan), 1 RS FR (Jamari Williams), 2 FR (Josh Baker, Woody Jean)
Notes: Undermanned at this position for several seasons, Arizona is getting there. With two more additions (a decent possibility) and no departures from the current group, the Wildcats would be at 15 scholarship linemen – which is exactly where offensive line coach Kyle DeVan would like to be. “If you have two-deep, you’re living good,” DeVan said last spring. “Maybe three of them are really your backups – a center, a swing guard and a swing tackle. And then those other two are just a little bit behind. Then you have five developmental guys that are just kind of on the scout team. Every day they’re getting better in the weight room.”
INTERIOR DEFENSIVE LINEMEN
By class: 1 RS SR (Jalen Cochran), 3 SR (JB Brown, Trevon Mason, Myles Tapusoa), 2 RS SO (Mykee Irving, Nahe Sulunga), 1 SO (Kyon Barrs), 2 FR (Regen Terry, Dion Wilson Jr.)
Notes: Arizona is expected to shift to a base 3-4 front under new defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads, requiring some positional projections. We see Brown and Terry as defensive ends in that scheme. We also see a need for further reinforcements. There simply aren’t enough proven entities here.
By class: 2 SR (Anthony Pandy, Kylan Wilborn), 1 RS JR (Jalen Harris), 1 RS SO (Issaiah Johnson), 2 RS FR (Eddie Siaumau-Sanitoa, Kwabena Watson)
Notes: Players such as Wilborn and Harris are obvious candidates to become 3-4 outside ’backers; Pandy is less so, but that’s what we’re hearing, at least as of now. Even if young players such as Siaumau-Sanitoa and Watson develop, Arizona needs to add more edge rushers. The UA has offered at least two already, and more are surely on the way.
By class: 2 SR (Tony Fields II, Colin Schooler), 1 SO (Derrion Clark)
Notes: Even if you add Triplett to the mix, four isn’t enough. As with the offensive line, you’d like to have a two-deep you can trust with a third group of developmental players. Also, Fields and Schooler are entering their final seasons and will need to be replaced. They’ve been remarkably durable during their time as Wildcats; neither has missed a game in three seasons.
By class: 1 RS SR (Lorenzo Burns), 1 RS JR (Malik Hausman), 1 JR (McKenzie Barnes), 2 SO (Christian-Roland Wallace, Bobby Wolfe), 1 FR (Khary Crump Jr.)
Notes: The number jumps to seven if Oywak signs. Like Roland-Wallace and Wolfe this past season, Oywak likely would play immediately in some capacity. Adding one more corner wouldn’t hurt, especially if Rhoads wants a true nickel in passing situations.
By class: 1 RS SR (Jarrius Wallace), 1 SR (Scottie Young Jr.), 3 RS JR (Xavier Bell, Rhedi Short, Troy Young), 1 JR (Christian Young), 1 SO (Jaxen Turner)
Notes: Arizona deployed three safeties regularly under former defensive coordinator Marcel Yates. If the 3-4 indeed becomes the base defense, the Wildcats won’t need as many. But they still need to replenish this group, which currently features only one underclassman on scholarship.
By class: 1 SR (Lucas Havrisik), 1 SO (Kyle Ostendorp), 1 FR (Tyler Loop)
Notes: Loop has been brought in to compete with Havrisik and eventually succeed him. Arizona is hopeful Ostendorp will take a leap in his second season. Unless Loop gets a look at punter, Ostendorp’s only competition will come from walk-ons, which isn’t unusual. Don’t expect any additional scholarship specialists in this cycle.