Change is an interesting concept that can be difficult for many to accept. It can serve you for better or worse, though most people would choose the former. And sometimes, it can also feel like a never-ending cycle.
Arizona football tight end Bryce Wolma knows a thing or two about this.
Since he first arrived in Tucson as a true freshman back in 2017, Wolma has undergone a coaching carousel that has involved three different head coaches and coaching staffs. All three brought their own coaching philosophies, styles and energy, playing through the tenures of former head coaches in Rich Rodriguez, Kevin Sumlin and now Jedd Fisch.
After an exceptional senior season at Saline High School that saw him haul in over 700 receiving yards and eight touchdowns, the Michigan native wasted no time making a strong impression on Rodriguez and the rest of the coaching staff. As a reward for his efforts, he earned a spot in the starting lineup and hasn’t looked back since. He went on to make seven starts in 13 games played during his first season at Arizona as a true freshman.
Wolma played an instrumental role in Arizona’s dynamic rushing attack during the 2017 season as they finished fourth in the nation with over 290 rushing yards per game. That same year, Wolma finished with a total of 28 receptions, the most receptions in a single season for a true tight end since none other than Rob Gronkowski accomplished the feat during the 2008 campaign.
As the 2017 season concluded, Arizona decided that Rodriguez wasn’t in their plans for the future and elected to dismiss him of his head coaching duties in favor of his successor, Sumlin. Due to the arrival of Sumlin, it only made sense that Wolma would continue to be a constant fixture in the passing attack as Sumlin was known in part for utilizing his tight ends a lot as pass catchers at Texas A&M. Unfortunately for Wolma, this was far from the truth. In his sophomore season in 2018, he was limited to only five receptions for the entire year. Despite the lack of targets, he still played an integral role in pass blocking as Arizona went on to allow only 20 sacks which was good enough for third fewest in the Pac-12 that season.
Wolma’s biggest moment that year actually came before the season kicked off, as he was acknowledged as part of the preseason watch list for the John Mackey Award, an award that recognizes the nation’s most exceptional tight end on and off the field.
Wolma certainly doesn’t fit the mold of the negative stereotype that is commonly associated with student athletes as being non-academically sound. To add to his list of accolades, he was named to the Pac-12 All-Academic First Team in 2018, as well as the Pac-12 Fall Academic Honor Roll in 2019. Wolma’s feats on the field have been as outstanding in the classroom, if not better.
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During the 2019 season, Sumlin’s plans for Wolma in his offense remained unchanged as he finished the 2019 season with only five receptions and 62 receiving yards to his name. Despite being a non-factor in the passing attack, he was still very effective as a run blocker as he helped the rushing attack achieve the 2,000-yard rushing milestone for the season. One of Wolma’s biggest moments from that season came against Hawaii in the season opener that saw him snag a 14-yard receiving touchdown.
For the 2020 season, Wolma picked up another accolade by being acknowledged to the watch list for the Wuerffel Trophy, an award that recognizes a college football player that demonstrates having the most profound impact on the community. The season itself didn’t provide fans with much to cheer about as Arizona finished 0-5 in the shortened season. To no one’s surprise, Wolma finished with only five catches once again for the second straight year.
After the dismissal of Sumlin following the conclusion of the 2020 campaign, in came Fisch. Fisch promised Wolma that he’d play a more integral role in his passing attack. Wolma said he couldn’t help but feel a little skeptical about this promise at first.
“When coach [Fisch] called me initially and was telling me how he was going to use the tight ends and then coach [Jordan] Pao called me and said the same thing,” Wolma said, “I was like, okay, I’ve heard that spiel before. We’ll see if that’s really true. When I came in the spring, it happened to be all true. I was on the field catching balls. I believed him, but at the same time I don’t want to get my hopes up.”
Wolma wasn’t shy to give his new head coach raving reviews and appreciated how Fisch has been excellent in community outreach, an area he said he feels has been lacking the last several years within the football program.
“My favorite part is not just the team to believe in his message, but the community,” Wolma said. “It’s been awesome to see the kind of involvement and things that he’s done to get fans excited for this upcoming season. I think that’s something Arizona football needs and was missing the last couple of years. He’s definitely brought that back to Tucson.”
For all the change that has taken place throughout Wolma’s collegiate career, he now feels rejuvenated after buying into Fisch’s message and is ecstatic to take the field with his teammates and coaches.
“This is the first time in a while that I’m super excited to play football,” Wolma said. “I’m super excited to play football for this staff [and] for these guys in the locker room. We are all bought in, so it’s going to be a really fun year.”
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