It’s all about T ²

Arizona wide receiver Terrell Tuner (84) adjusts to a pass during a 24-23 Wildcat loss to Stanford on Saturday in Palo Alto, Calif. Turner had career-high 10 catches for 175 yards against the Cardinal and coaches said he is Arizonas most well-rounded receiver.

Arizona wide receiver Terrell Tuner (84) adjusts to a pass during a 24-23 Wildcat loss to Stanford on Saturday in Palo Alto, Calif. Turner had career-high 10 catches for 175 yards against the Cardinal and coaches said he is Arizona’s most well-rounded receiver.

Bobby Stover

It may be hard to believe at times, but the Arizona football team’s receiving corps goes deeper than just Mike Thomas.

Although the senior leads not only the team, but the entire Pacific 10 Conference in several statistical categories – including receptions per game with just over six and receiving yards per game (77.5) – he may not even be the Wildcats’ most sound receiver.

That title, according to outside receivers coach David Nichol, goes to Terrell Turner. In the Stanford game, Thomas was not quarterback Willie Tuitama’s main target as Turner stacked up career-high numbers with 10 catches for 175 yards.

“”Honestly he is our most polished guy,”” Nichol said of Turner. “”His confidence has been good and we have complete confidence in him as coaches. He’s probably our most complete guy, so hopefully (last weekend’s performance) will help get him rolling.””

One reason for Turner’s large spike in production in Palo Alto, Calif., came as a result of Stanford’s focus on Thomas.

The Cardinal held the senior to a mere 31 yards on four catches, allowing Turner to take the reins and run loose.

“”We’ve got a lot of weapons on the team and if they double somebody, somebody else has to be ready to step up and make big plays,”” Turner said. “”I guess this time it was my turn.””

Turner’s turn has been long in waiting as the junior showed signs early on in the season of his potential.

Following a 2007 season in which the 6-foot-2, 190-pound receiver saw action in 11 games and hauled in 50 receptions for nearly 600 yards and four touchdowns, coaches said Turner impressed them from spring camp all the way through two-a-days in the fall.

Last season, Turner had already drastically improved from the freshman who saw action in eight games only to bring down one catch for seven yards.

Heading into this season, however, the consensus around the Arizona coaching staff was that the Texas native would be a critical piece to the Wildcats’ offensive attack.

“”He’s probably been our most consistent guy through practice and at some point I knew he was going to have a big game,”” said offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes. “”We were bouncing him around positions, which I think is a little unsettling sometimes, but the good thing about it is that we’ve had three different receivers go over 100 yards in the last three games with Mike (Thomas), Robbie (Gronkowski) and now Terrell (Turner).

“”He’s a good guy to get his hands on the ball and make plays,”” Dykes added.

Turner’s ability to adjust to new positions around the football field has only increased his appeal to his coaches

and teammates.

While tight end Gronkowski sat out the team’s first three games due to mononucleosis, Turner was moved to become more of an inside receiver’s role, one Dykes said fit the junior to a T.

“”When we don’t have Robbie on the field, when we’re trying to get maybe a little more speed out there, he’s good at that inside receiver position,”” Dykes said of Turner. “”He’s just got a good feel on how to get open and running routes.””

Despite his efficiency on the inside through the first three games of the season, in which Turner caught 14 passes for 134 yards and one score, Tuitama said he likes Turner as an outside threat. That’s the spot where he played the majority of his snaps since Gronkowski’s return three weeks ago against UCLA.

The appeal was most evident last weekend during Turner’s career-best performance.

“”I always knew that T.T. could make the big play,”” Tuitama said. “”He’s played all over the place and he really has a good knack for the offense.

“”He knows exactly what’s going on during every play at every position,”” Tuitama added, “”and when you have a player like that, who’s so versatile, who we can put anywhere, it really makes things a lot easier for us.””

Thanks in part to Turner’s big day Saturday, the Arizona pass catchers might now be viewed as more than just the talented Thomas.

Despite being relatively unnoticeable for much of the season, the Wildcats have proven they have several weapons through the air.

In addition to Turner, who is currently second on Arizona in receptions and yards, with 28 and 362, respectively, sophomore receiver Delashaun Dean is not far behind with 289 yards on the same number of catches.

Dean does lead Turner 2-to-1 in an important statistical category: touchdowns. The only other player to have more receiving scores than Turner, other than Thomas’ three, is Gronkowski, who used two big games against the Bruins and Washington to bring his total on the season to five.

Even with the emergence of new playmakers in the Wildcats’ air attack, the Arizona coaching staff still said they plan to go into Saturday’s match-up with No. 25 California with a balanced offense – a trend typical of the team.

“”We like to try to stay balanced at the end of the day,”” Nichol said. “”Run-pass, 50-50. We have a pretty simple offense and we feel we can adjust in the middle of a game if we need to.

“”We’re still sometimes amazed at who (opponents) leave open,”” Nichol added. “”But (having so much depth) definitely makes it a match-up problem for defenses.””