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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Criner to return for senior season

After testing the NFL waters, junior receiver Juron Criner informed head coach Mike Stoops on Tuesday morning that he will return for his senior season at Arizona.

“”Juron (Criner) will be back,”” Stoops said. “”That is obviously a big deal for us, for Juron to have the maturity to see that he needs to continue to progress to be the best.””

Throughout the regular season Criner led the Pacific 10 Conference in receptions per game (6.08) and receiving yards per game (98.8), while hauling in 10 touchdowns. At 6-foot-4, 210 pounds, his combination of speed, strength and leaping ability makes him clearly NFL ready. But after Criner “”went through the process of NFL evaluation,”” the 21-year-old Las Vegas product decided that teaming with quarterback Nick Foles for one more season was the best option for his draft stock.

“”There’s no question he’s an NFL player. He’s ready, but I think he’ll be more ready,”” Stoops said. “”I think he gets the opportunity to make more money staying in school, and that’s a rare opportunity to do that.””

Criner was Arizona’s unquestioned No. 1 option last season, accounting for 11 of their 25 receiving touchdowns, including the Valero Alamo Bowl loss in which he caught nine balls for 47 yards and a score.

“”I think it tells you the faith he has in what we’re doing and tells you a lot about what he wants to do, leaving a legacy behind,”” Stoops said. “”That’s probably the thing I’m most proud of. It shows maturity on his part.””

He emerged as the one of the nation’s top receivers as he finished with 82 receptions for 1,233 yards and 11 touchdowns, but with Alabama’s Julio Jones, Georgia’s AJ Green and possibly Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon entering the NFL draft, Criner will use his senior season to become the best of the best.

With Criner back, Arizona now features one of the best receiving corps in the country. Dan Buckner, who sat out last season after transferring from the University of Texas, will be eligible, giving the Wildcats two 6-foot-4 upper-echelon receivers on opposite sides. Buckner caught 45 passes for 442 yards and four touchdowns for the Longhorns as a sophomore and serves as a second No. 1 receiver for Arizona.

Add in David Douglas, David Roberts, Richard Morrison and the recently emerged Terrence Miller, and the Wildcats will pose a challenge to any secondary in the country.

With Criner, Buckner and Miller all at 6-foot-4, Arizona should improve in the red zone, where it struggled all season long.   

“”I think we have probably the strongest nucleus of receivers that we’ve ever had, and we’ll be a formidable group anywhere in the country,”” Stoops said.

Because of Criner’s return, Stoops said he plans to shift into a more spread offense modeled after Texas Tech. He wants to “”feature”” Criner and Buckner, which means less running and more passing.

“”That will be a big part of what we do,”” Stoops said of Criner and Buckner.

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