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Arizona Wildcats set to open up season against Utah

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Mike Christy and Colin Darland
Arizona Wildcats wide receiver Brian Casteel (5) runs during the second half Arizona Wildcats vs. Hawaii Rainbow Warriors college football game 8/24/19 at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, HI. Photo by Mike Christy / Arizona Athletics

After it originally looked like the Pac-12 might not have a season this year, head coach Kevin Sumlin and the Arizona Wildcats are looking forward to getting back onto the field in a real-game scenario. 

“We’re excited to play,” Sumlin said. “No matter what, where, when, these guys just want to play football and I’m excited about where these guys are right now.”

Arizona gets set to open up the season on Saturday, Nov. 7, against Utah in Salt Lake City and there is still a lot of uncertainty as to who will be lining up under center for the Utes following the departure of Tyler Huntley. 

Utah released its depth chart for the season earlier this week and it is still unclear who the starter will be between South Carolina transfer Jake Bentley, Texas transfer Cameron Rising and former walk-on Drew Lisk. 

Bentley was the full-time starter for South Carolina in 2017 and 2018 before a season-ending injury limited him to one game last season before he later announced his intentions of transferring to Utah. Rising was the No. 8 pro-style quarterback out of high school when he committed to Texas before the emergence of Sam Ehlinger led Rising to transfer over to Utah where he redshirted last season. Lisk, a walk-on in 2016, played in one game in 2017 and 2018 before seeing action in four games last year. These quarterbacks all come with a different playstyle and the Wildcats have to prepare to play against any or all of them. 

“We just have to prepare for everybody,” senior defensive back Lorenzo Burns said. “That goes for any team, somebody could get hurt during the week of practice or the week before the game, you never know, especially now with [COVID-19]. You never know, someone might test positive the day before the game and they are out the next day. The way we’re approaching things is we’re prepared for everything.”

RELATED: Across the Press Box: The Daily Utah Chronicle’s Sammy Mora

Sumlin also released his depth chart earlier this week which features Grant Gunnell under center and Gary Brightwell in the backfield as expected, along with Jamarye Joiner, Boobie Curry and Brian Casteel leading the wide receiver core. One player who hopes to see an expanded role this season is tight end Bryce Wolma. 

Wolma erupted onto the scene as a true freshman, finishing third on the team in receptions (28) for 241 yards and two touchdowns. That was under former head coach Rich Rodriguez, however, as Wolma has seen his role in the passing game drop ever since Sumlin became the Wildcats head coach in 2018. 

“New coaches and new scheme, you just have to adjust and you have to adjust in life,” Wolma said. “I obviously do want the ball, and I know it is a joke that we say it all the time, but I do think that the tight ends are going to be a lot more involved this year in the passing game.” 

Wolma also noted his progression as a run-blocker throughout his tenure here in Tucson and hopes that will be what he needs to see more snaps and ultimately be used more in the passing game this season.

“Not being as involved in the passing the game the last two years has allowed me to hone in on my blocking, which I wasn’t the best at my freshman and sophomore seasons,” Wolma said. “I think I have really developed in that aspect and I think that because I have developed so much, these coaches want me on the field more and when I’m on the field more then I’m more involved in the passing game. I think that my development in the blocking game has really helped open up some new opportunities for the tight ends and I think it’s going to help.”

Utah has lost a lot of talent from last season’s team, but they still remain one of the top favorites in the Pac-12 South. It will be a great early test for Gunnell as he gets to set to enter his first season as the full-time starter for the Wildcats. 

The Wildcats-Utes game is scheduled to kick-off on Saturday, Nov. 7, at 1:30 MST on ESPN2. 

Other notes: Kevin Sumlin announced that wide receiver Jaden Mitchell is out for the season and running back Frank Brown Jr. is out for several weeks due to knee injuries.  


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