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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Arizona football expects a lot from experienced receiving corps

Tyler Baker

Arizona wide receiver Samajie Grant sprints toward the end zone with a defender on his tail during Arizona’s 38-20 win over Colorado on Saturday, Nov. 8, 2014.

The Pac-12 Conference has always had a reputation as an offensive league.

Oregon operates at warp speed, USC churns out spectacular athletes and even California has sent Aaron Rodgers, Marshawn Lynch, DeSean Jackson, and Justin Forsett to the NFL.

Offense will always be the calling card out West.

Just last season, six Pac-12 teams placed in the top-30 nationally in passing yards, including Washington State leading the country, with California and Pac-12 powerhouses Oregon and USC close behind.

Arizona ranked 21st in the nation in passing yards per game and 15th in total yards. Both of those numbers should improve as the Wildcats return seven starters on the offensive side of the ball including a plethora of receiving options.

While quarterback Anu Solomon and runningback Nick Wilson are receiving the most preseason hype for the Arizona offense, its receiving options are so stacked that Notre Dame transfer DaVonte’ Neal switched to defense for more consistent playing time.

Last season, eight different wideouts reached the end zone and many have returned to tear apart Pac-12 defensive secondaries again.

Redshirt junior Cayleb Jones headlines the bunch as he comes off of a season that ranked him fifth in the Pac-12 in yards, with 73 receptions for 1,019 yards and nine touchdowns.

Jones will be looking to compete with USC’s JuJu Smith and Oregon’s Byron Marshall to be the top receiver in the conference.

The former Texas Longhorn racked up four 100-yard games and broke out with a 13-catch, 186-yard and three-touchdown performance in the comeback win against California in last season’s Pac-12 opener.

Junior Samajie Grant came in second to Jones last season for the Wildcats in yards (718) and touchdowns (6) and is a threat to reach the thousand yard mark this season.

Jones’s biggest game last season came in the Territorial Cup when he hauled in four catches for 91 yards and two touchdowns including a memorable 69-yard catch-and-run in which he eluded multiple defenders.

Jones was a consistent big-play receiver last year as he racked up six catches of over 40 yards.

Defenses should key on Wilson and Jared Baker with caution as they leave themselves vulnerable to get beat over the top.

Redshirt junior Trey Griffey and sophomore Tyrell Johnson will both miss time at the beginning of the season with injuries, but they too help make up the Wildcats’ passing attack.

Johnson doubles as a track runner and is dangerous in the open field, while Griffey looks to build off of his strong Fiesta Bowl performance where he had six catches for 66 yards.

Senior receiver David Richards is a great target across the middle at 6’ 4” and is embracing the leadership role as the lone senior of the receiving corps.

“I think it’s important to me,” Richards said earlier this summer when asked about being a leader. “I think I have to be the one to lead by example because we have a lot of young receivers who could potentially play this year and they need a role model,” he added.

Nate Phillips rounds out the group and will look to rebound from a 2014 season that was cut short by five games due to a left foot injury. The Wildcats are hopeful he will return to his freshman form when he racked in 51 catches for 696 yards and seven touchdowns.

While Solomon had a record-breaking freshman season, the sky is the limit for what this offense can achieve in 2015 and with another year of experience under their belts, Pac-12 opponents better watch out for the Arizona wideouts.

Follow Ivan Leonard on Twitter.

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