The top 10 Arizona football players you need to know for the 2016 season.
QB Anu Solomon, Jr.
Following an up-and-down year, in which games were missed to injury, Arizona is still waiting for the untapped potential of Solomon to reach the surface. The two-year starter, who’s being challenged by sophomore Brandon Dawkins, completed 205-of-330 passes for 2,667 yards, 20 touchdowns and five interceptions. But a chunk of his numbers was built on the backs of a soft non-conference schedule. It’s going to be an interesting offseason for Solomon, who’s again being counted on to be the catalyst of Rich Rodriguez’s attack.
RB Nick Wilson, Jr.
A healthy Wilson is one of the more dependable backs in the Pac-12. Unfortunately for both he and the Cats, he was dinged up last year, carrying just 134 times for 729 yards and eight touchdowns. The Fresno, Calif. native is a workhorse, even more so now that he’s bulked up to 5-10 and 215 pounds during offseason conditioning. Wilson won’t make many people miss, but his north-south running style will wear opponents down.
LB Paul Magloire, Sr.
The most traveled Wildcat on the roster has finally found a home in Tucson. And his long journey, with stops at Milford Academy, Appalachian State and Arizona Western, is beginning to pay dividends. The 6-1, 221-pound safety-turned-linebacker plays the game extremely fast, using his closing speed and long arms to create havoc in opposing backfields. After debuting with 72 tackles and four stops for loss, the sure-tackling Magloire is eyeing the All-Pac-12 Team in 2016.
OG Jacob Alsadek, Jr.
Now that he’s entering his third year as a starter, Alsadek is expected to take on more of a leadership role in Tucson. The program needs after the unit was pedestrian in 2015. Alsadek is a massive 6-7, 318-pounder, looking more like blockers who typically line up at tackle. He shook off a rough September to play very well down the stretch, especially in pass protection.
WR Nate Phillips, Sr.
Phillips is Arizona’s top returning wide receiver, finishing third on the 2015 team with 44 receptions for 564 yards and four touchdowns. He peaked with six catches for 106 yards in an Oct. 17 win over Colorado. Lightning quick out of the slot, the 5-7, 180-pound Phillips can be tough to contain—or find—by larger defenders. And he’s a potential factor on direct handoffs and jet sweeps, too.
LB DeAndre’ Miller, Jr.
The Wildcats need help—and health—at middle linebacker in the aftermath of Scooby Wright’s departure. Miller is positioned to step up his game from the outside. In terms of size, speed and overall athleticism, the 6-3, 236-pounder has the best measurables among Arizona’s linebackers. And he used his physicality to get after the pocket in 2015, making 50 stops, eight tackles for minus yards and a pair of sacks.
S Tellas Jones, Sr.
Good news? Jones is coming off his best season as a Wildcat, roaming all over the field to make 55 stops, seven tackles for loss and three sacks. He’s a quality 6-0, 199-pound athlete who can do a lot of positive things for Arizona from the back end of the defense. However, the bad news is that Jones pled guilty in March to two misdemeanor charges and was suspended for spring. His status with the program remains unknown at this time.
WR Samajie Grant, Sr.
No, Grant isn’t the big body on the outside that the Wildcats need to replace Cayleb Jones. But he is a proven veteran, which won’t be lost on a corps moving forward without three of its four top receivers from 2015. It’ll be up to Grant to recapture his sophomore form after his production slipped to 31 catches for 301 yards and two scores. When Grant is on, he’s a 5-9, 180-pound jackrabbit out of the slot who excels at locating the open areas.
S Jarvis McCall, Jr.
It’s going to be an interesting offseason for McCall, who’s moving to safety after two seasons as a starting cornerback. He closed out last year with his best stretch as a Wildcat, finishing with 28 tackles, a pick and five pass breakups. But as Arizona tries to fix its pass defense, the staff felt that McCall’s strength and size, 6-2 and 202 pounds, made him a better at safety.
CB DaVonte’ Neal, Sr.
Neal’s first season at cornerback produced mixed results. On the one hand, the former transfer from Notre Dame is a terrific all-around athlete. On the other, though, he struggled in coverage, a familiar theme in Tucson in 2015. The 5-10, 178-pound speedster was active in run defense, finishing third on the team with 63 tackles, but the team is banking on him improving when the ball is in the air.