Receiving corps is a strength for Arizona Wildcats football
At times last season, head coach Rich Rodriguez struggled with the depth at wide receiver. An injury to presumed No. 1 receiver Austin Hill was a driving factor behind Rodriguez’s uncertainty and forced younger players into action.
By the end of the year, several of those young players, such as Trey Griffey, Nate Phillips and Samajie Grant, provided the receiving threats that had been missing from the offensive dynamic all season.
Now with Hill back, the young guys returning, the freshman recruits and the additions of transfers DeVonte’ Neal and Cayleb Jones, Rodriguez said there are plenty of options for the Wildcats.
“There were times last spring and the spring before that we didn’t have enough bodies,” Rodriguez said. “Now we have plenty of bodies and I think we’ve got really good competition there.”
Sophomore wide receiver Samajie Grant, along with Trey Griffey and Nate Phillis, provided the receiving threats that had been missing from the offensive dynamic last season.
With so many players, the fight for the starting wide receiver spots should be one of the most competitive positional battles on the entire team. At least seven players have a legitimate case to be a part of the starting unit.
Chief among those players is Hill. Two seasons ago, the 6-foot-3 receiver led Arizona with 1,364 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns. Coming out of the slot, Hill stabilized an otherwise inexperienced receiving corps.
Behind him are the trio of Grant, Griffey and Phillips. Grant and Phillips stand at 5-foot-7 and 5-foot-9, respectively, and provided much of the slot duties while Hill was injured. Griffey came on strong at the end of last season, punctuating his emergence with two touchdowns in the AdvoCare V100 bowl against Boston College.
However, all these receivers have similar talents and should see time in the slot as speed options. The tallest receiver on the team and one of the traditional red zone targets happens to be 6-foot-4 redshirt junior David Richards.
Richards played in only nine games last season, but figures to be right in the middle of the wide receiver competition.
“Having size definitely gives me an advantage,” Richards said. “I definitely want to be a red zone threat … just try a jump ball, and I feel like I can go up and get it.”
Rounding out the group are transfers Neal and Jones. The duo had to sit out last season due to NCAA rules after transferring from Notre Dame and Texas, respectively.
According to ESPN, Neal was the No. 8 recruit in the nation coming out of the 2012 high school recruiting class. Neal chose Notre Dame over Arizona and caught only one pass in his lone season with the Fighting Irish.
Jones was the No. 147 recruit in the nation coming out of the same 2012 class and chose to play for Mack Brown at Texas. Coincidentally, Jones also had only one catch in his lone season as a Longhorn.
Both redshirt sophomores bring elite talent to the Arizona receiving corps and should push the returning players for game action.
“I feel like the competition is going to bring out the best in all of us,” Neal said. “The best guys are going to play and we know that. We have to put it the work to get those [starting]positions.”
—Follow Roberto Payne @HouseOfPayne555