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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


UA stocked with pass-catching options

Roxana Vasquez
Alan Walsh / Arizona Daily Wildcat

Critics of the Arizona offense might say that replacing Mike Thomas, the Pacific 10 Conference’s all-time leading receiver, is too tall of a task. They also might say that there isn’t one player that can replace the production of the senior who was drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Those opinions are probably correct in that no single receiver on the Arizona roster will grab 74 balls for 825 yards like Thomas did last year, but Arizona has plenty of options to replace his production.

While there may not be one superstar, there are five proven receivers.

On the outside, senior Terrell Turner and junior Delashaun Dean will use their tall frames and deceptive speed to give quarterbacks a reliable option.

“”They’re both great players that bring a lot to the table,”” said outside receivers coach Dave Nichol. “”A lot of people have Turner pegged as a possession guy and Dean pegged as our freak athlete guy, but I think they both share the same qualities and are well-rounded receivers.””

What’s been a pleasant surprise to the UA coaching staff is that several other outside receivers stepped up in camp because of a minor hamstring injury that kept Dean out for a considerable amount of time. Dean’s seven catches for 88 yards and a touchdown in the Las Vegas bowl showed why many feel he is a potential superstar. While the 6-foot-4 product of Fairfield High School (Calif.) was comfortably in control of the “”Z”” receiver position last season, other players got a chance to show what they were worth during his injury. Most notably Juron Criner.

“”Personally I had to come out and make big plays (in Dean’s absence) but a lot of guys stepped up in camp and made plays,”” Turner said. “”Especially my man right here, Juron Criner.””

Now imagine standing next to the 6-foot-2 Turner, a big guy for a wide receiver, and then being directed to a 6-foot-4, 210-pound mountain of a sophomore who has spent the past few months under the tutelage of a savvy vet like Turner.

“”Overall I did well,”” Criner said when looking back on his summer camp performance. “”There’s still room for improvement, but I’m excited to play and help this team.””

At the inside receiver position, that same task of replacing Mike Thomas seems to be in good hands. Sophomore William “”Bug”” Wright has been drawing comparisons to Thomas since he arrived in Tucson — everything from his speed, hands and returning abilities all the way down to his 5-foot-9 frame.

The competition for starting slot receiver was listed as open in the spring, but Wright took full control of the position within minutes of the first practice and hasn’t looked back.

“”Bug Wright has done some really great things for us,”” said head coach Mike Stoops. “”He’s very quick and very good with the ball.””

You can expect to see Wright with the ball in a multitude of ways — catching, running the ball on reverses and options and returning punts and kicks. Such responsibilities require one thing: speed. Fortunately for the Wildcats, that’s something Wright has a lot of.

“”Play fast,”” Wright said when asked to describe his game. “”I’m usually the smallest guy on the field so I just try to use my speed and quickness and play fast like my hair is on fire.””

Wright, combined with Dean and Turner, form one of the most respectable receiving units in the Pac-10. Add a deep running back group and tight end Rob Gronkowski to the mix and the Wildcats have the potential to continue last year’s efficient offense, regardless of who winds up at quarterback.

The only problem about having so many offensive options is that it’s difficult to get each one enough touches. But ask any coach in America and that’s a problem they would love to have.

“”We go four or five deep (at receiver)”” Stoops said. “”We have better depth at receiver and we feel like we have some complimentary pieces at the receiver position that should help us.””

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