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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Arizona football receivers are in good hands

Rebecca Noble

Arizona football wide receiver Trey Griffey (5) runs through drills during Arizona’s first spring practice on Wednesday at Kindall Field in Frank Sancet Stadium. Griffey is part of a receiver corps that returns many key players for spring practices.

Arizona football lost two of its top five receivers, but UA coaches said they feel like their receiving corps is in good hands.

The Wildcats lost Austin Hill, their second leading receiver, because he was a senior, and DaVonte’ Neal, their fifth leading receiver, because he switched to defense. Hill caught 49 passes for 635 yards and four touchdowns in the 2014 season, while Neal had 27 catches for 214 yards and two touchdowns.

However, Arizona returns its leading receiver, Cayleb Jones, who had 73 catches for 1,019 yards and nine touchdowns.

“I think we’ve got some experience there, we got some big guys, we got some smaller guys,” Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said. “That’s a good crew; we’ve got a lot of experience there. I think we’ll be able to do a little bit more route concepts with those guys because of their experience.”

Arizona’s third leading receiver, Samajie Grant (45 catches for 718 yards and 6 touchdowns), and fourth leading receiver, Trey Griffey (31 catches for 405 yards), are also back.

Receivers coach Tony Dews said he is happy with how the unit has played so far in the spring.

“We’re getting better; we’re making improvements from the fall,” Dews said. “Just make daily improvements. We’re moving in the right direction.”

Griffey said the Wildcats have been improving since the fall. Arizona was 21st in the country in passing yards last season.

“Everybody’s improving on stuff we were messing up on as far as I see — everybody’s making strides, making improvements,” Griffey said. “We have new freshmen in picking up on the system. They’re doing great, and it’s helping us out in the future.”

Dews said the redshirt freshmen have done well so far in the spring and will get better as they get more reps after moving from the scout team.

“Tony [Ellison] is doing a good job, Kaelin’s [DeBoskie] doing a good job, [Jocquez] Kalili, Darius Aguirre,” Dews said. “All those guys that were working with the scouts in the fall, they’ve done a good job through the off season and the first couple practices.”

Speedy sophomore Tyrell Johnson is expected to play a bigger role on offense. He spent the offseason competing for the track and field team.

Johnson set a new UA record after running a 6.66 60-meter dash at the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Championships. Johnson finished fifth in the finals of the 60 meters, clocking a 6.72.

“Obviously, he’s a really fast kid,” Dews said. “He’s a skilled athlete. He just has to continue to learn to be a true wide receiver and keep developing as a receiver.”

Johnson said he is focused on football but could join the track and field team for the outdoor season after spring football, and he is trying to get stronger so he can block better.

“I’ve learned how to become a receiver more,” Johnson said. “In high school, I was always at running back, so now that I’m running routes consistently, I’m learning how to break my routes off, how to speed, how to burst, how to stem receivers. It’s just helping me become a better player.”

Johnson played in all 14 games as a freshman, catching 14 passes for 120 yards and averaging 8.6 yards per catch. He returned 29 kicks for 687 yards, 23.7 yards per return.

Johnson said the success on the track doesn’t give him more confidence on the football field.

“It’s different,” Johnson said. “Track, you’re running. You don’t have to worry about no one hitting you, you don’t have to worry about catching the ball, you don’t have to worry about the crowd. It’s just you against that person. On the football field, it’s you and your team.”

The Wildcats are spending the spring trying to replace Hill, who played all the receiver positions and even played some tight end in 2014.

Griffey said Hill was like another coach on the field, but senior David Richards could help take up that role.

“It’s tough because of what he’s meant to the program for so long,” Dews said about losing Hill. “Obviously, he was a guy who could play all the positions, a good leader in the meeting room. So, it’s tough, but it’s like in recruiting ‘on to the next one,’ you just keep developing the ones that are here.”


Follow James Kelley on Twitter.

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