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THE DAILY WILDCAT VOLUME 115 | ISSUE 14 | 2021 UA FOOTBALL SPECIAL EDITION | WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 8, 2021

SINCE 1899, THE STUDENT VOICE OF THE UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA & TUCSON | ONLINE, ALL THE TIME, AT DAILYWILDCAT.COM

2021 ARIZONA FOOTBALL

ARE JEDD FISCH’s NEW-LOOK WILDCATS

DRESSED FOR SUCCESS? INSIDE: poster featuring new ‘desert swarm’ throwback uniforms I Dr. Blitz I Position breakdowns I 2021 SEASON OUTLOOK I MORE


2 • The Daily Wildcat

UA Football Special Edition ● September 2021

UA Football Special Edition | VOLUME 115, ISSUE 14 New frontman

4

Wolma’s final ride

New head football coach Jedd Fisch heads into his freshman season

8

New (old) threads

TE Bryce Wolma enters his fifth season at Arizona, with his third head coach

11

Roundtable The DW sports desk gives their predictions for the upoming season

Pride of Arizona Marching back to victory: The UA band returns!

16

Dr. Blitz

20

Arizona football’s new uniforms are a throwback to the Desert Swarm era

18

BYU recap

Energetic new hire Don Brown looks to refresh Arizona defense

23

The Wildcats took on BYU last Saturday to open the 2021 season

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Volume 115 • Issue 14

THE DAILY WILDCAT

Editor-in-Chief Maggie Rockwell editor@dailywildcat.com

Assistant Sports Editor Ryan Wohl sports@dailywildcat.com

photo@dailywildcat.com

Managing Editors Capri Fain Sam Burdette managinged@dailywildcat.com storyideas@dailywildcat.com

Enterprise Editor Capri Fain

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pascal@dailywildcat.com

News Reporters Hillary Schiff Sean Meixner Vic Verbalitis Jane Florance Sohi Kang Grant Hoover

Arts & Life Editor Ella McCarville arts@dailywildcat.com

Copy Chief JT Thorpe copy@dailywildcat.com

Science Reporters Udbhav Venkataraman Andres Diaz

Assistant Arts & Life Editor Diana Ramos Sacaria arts@dailywildcat.com

Assistant Copy Chief Grant Forgues copy@dailywildcat.com

Enterprise Reporters Grant Hoover Vic Verbalaitis

Opinions Editor Payton Toomey opinion@dailywildcat.com

Writing Coach Mikayla Kaber

Copy Editors Hannah Martuscello Frances Drye Anais Martinez Sohi Kang

News Editor Kristijan Barnjak news@dailywildcat.com Science Editor Jillian Bartsch science@dailywildcat.com Sports Editor Jordan Pollock sports@dailywildcat.com

Photo Editor Tia Stephens

mikaylak@dailywildcat.com

Sports Reporters Jacob Mennuti Ari Koslow Jake Faigus Devin Homer Patrick Carr Sean Fagan Bryan Savic CJ Lala Asher Bookspan Jacqueline Aguilar

Arts & Life Reporters Allison Fagan Abbie Kosoc Sean Fagan Elle Nangia Sohi Kang Madison Beveridge Bellah Nelson

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Opinion Writers Amanda Betz Geraldine Espinosa Sean Fagan Pavas Gupta Maggie Landon Tereza Rascon Julianna Strano Jacqueline Aguilar Designers JT Thorpe Maggie Rockwell Sam Burdette Ella McCarville Jillian Bartsch Capri Fain Pascal Albright

Advertising Design Katie Yung UATV 3 General Manager AJ Janos gm@UATV.arizona.edu KAMP Student Radio General Manager Annika Reimers gm@KAMP.arizona.edu

Comic Artist John Konrad

ABOUT THE DAILY WILDCAT: The Daily Wildcat is the University of Arizona’s student-run, independent news source. While publishing daily online at DailyWildcat.com, its print edition is distributed on campus and throughout Tucson during fall and spring semesters. The function of the Wildcat is to disseminate news to the

community and to encourage an exchange of ideas. The Daily Wildcat was founded in 1899. All copy, photographs and graphics appearing in the newspaper or DailyWildcat.com are the sole property of the Daily Wildcat and may not be reproduced without the specific consent of the editor-in-chief. A single print copy of the Daily Wildcat is free from newsstands. Unauthorized removal of multiple copies will be considered theft and may be prosecuted. Additional print copies of the Daily Wildcat are available from the Arizona Student Media office. The Daily Wildcat is a member of the Associated Collegiate Press and the Arizona Newspapers Association.

EDITORIAL POLICY: Daily Wildcat

editorials represent the official opinion of the Daily Wildcat opinions board, which is determined at opinions board meetings. Opinion columns, guest commentary, cartoons, online comments and letters to the editors do not represent the opinion of the publication, but that of the author.

CORRECTIONS: Corrections or complaints concerning Daily Wildcat content should be directed to the editor-in-chief. For further information on the Daily Wildcat’s approved grievance policy, readers may contact Brett Fera, director of Arizona Student Media, in the Sherman R. Miller 3rd Newsroom at the University Services Building. NEWS TIPS: (520) 621-3193 The Daily Wildcat is always interested in story ideas and tips from readers. If you see something deserving of coverage, contact the newsroom at storyideas@dailywildcat.com or call 621-3193.

COVER DESIGN (Jedd Fisch & new uniforms) and PULLOUT POSTER ART (uniform breakdown): John Konrad/Daily Wildcat


September 2021 • UA Football Special Edition

DailyWildcat.com • 3


4 • The Daily Wildcat

UA Football Special Edition ● September 2021

JEDD FISCH

MEGAN EWING | THE DAILY WILDCAT

JEDD FISCH, HEAD COACH of Arizona football, prepares for the basketball tip in Tucson on Saturday, April 24. The tip took the place of the traditional coin toss.


September 2021 • UA Football Special Edition

DailyWildcat.com • 5

JEDD FISCH

New culture, new mindset, new coach BY ARI KOSLOW @koslow_ari

It has been an offseason to remember for the University of Arizona football program, headlined by the return of notable people as well as the uniforms longtime Wildcat fans have been accustomed to. After an abysmal stint under head coach Kevin Sumlin that ended in a 70-7 embarrassing defeat against Arizona State to cap off a no win season, it was time for a new era in the Arizona football program as Sumlin was fired the next day. There were a number of notable candidates interviewed to be the next Wildcats head coach, but Jedd Fisch won the job, and it’s been history ever since. “We’ve worked extremely hard over the course of the last seven months to not just change the culture, but create our own culture,” Fisch said in his Pac-12 football media day conference back in July. “We talk about from the very beginning on an expectation of really taking a mindset of becoming a pro.” That shouldn’t be too difficult as Fisch has helped bring in a coaching staff to the football

around the country that have come coach football, just go to the NFL, program that is filled with NFL to join our program. We brought stay in the NFL. If you want to experience, both as players and a lot of people back to the state of embrace a college community and coaches. That includes helping you want to embrace pageantry and Arizona. We believe it is our job to bring back Wildcat legends Chuck recruit Arizona better than it has you want to embrace social media Cecil and Ricky Hunley, as well as ever been recruited.” and you want to embrace the idea Tedy Bruschi. One of the notable steps Fisch Fisch has also made it his mission of bringing 70,000 people or 60,000 took when he was first hired to be people or as many people as we can to connect and curate relationships the Wildcats next with current head coach was and former We’ve worked extremely hard ... to not to connect with Arizona legends the local Arizona including Steve just change the culture, but create our own high school Kerr and Adia culture. ” football coaches Barnes, the — JEDD FISCH, FOOTBALL HEAD COACH and players. He people Arizona wanted to show Wildcats fans every Arizona high school football put in there, then go coach college.” care most about, not just in the coach his commitment to the What was once a program left football program but many other Wildcats football program, and it in shambles by Sumlin has turned sports as well. clearly worked with has turned into into a team Arizona football fans He ended one of the practices a notable recruiting class for the have a reason to look forward to early to fly out and watch the Wildcats. Arizona currently ranks with a coach who has shown he women’s basketball team clearly cares about the fan base and No. 4 in the conference for the 2022 play Stanford in the national recruiting class that includes a pair the support. championship. He has attended of four-star recruits. One of the notable changes numerous Wildcat tennis matches Fisch spent the previous three Fisch has made within the football and baseball games. Fisch has seasons working under the program this off season has been made it his mission to connect coaching staffs of Bill Belichick and the importance of recruiting, with everyone involved in Wildcat Sean McVay with the Patriots and especially within the state of sports as well as in the Tucson Rams at the NFL level. That type of Arizona. That goes for not just high community. experience learning under those school players, but also collegiate “I believe that I didn’t just sign minds can only benefit the UA players transferring from other on to be the head football coach,” football program, allowing these schools. Fisch said. “I signed on to be a great coaches to speak and motivate the “We believe Tucson is a special ambassador to the University of team. place,” Fisch said. “We have Arizona and to the University of “I’ve been extremely fortunate brought in a lot of transfers that Arizona athletics. … For me, this in the NFL and in college to have had been at other universities from is what we do. If you want to just

worked for some of the best coaches,” Fisch said. “Certainly in the NFL, most recently coach Belichick, coach McVay and coach [Pete] Carroll. All three of them have not only influenced me but helped me and will help our football team. Coach McVay and coach Carroll have already talked to our guys, but with coach Belichick, I talk with him extremely often.” Fisch listed toughness as the No. 1 attribute he brought with him to the Wildcats program after working under Belichick. “I will say that the No.1 thing that I brought to our program is mental and physical toughness and the idea of doing what’s best for the team if it’s not what’s best for you is being mentally tough,” Fisch said. “Our team knows that, we talk about that and we try to give our team the opportunity to be a smart, physical and tough football team and I certainly credit coach Belichick for that message.” It is safe to say Fisch has done everything right for the better of the program this offseason in a variety of different ways. It is now time to see what the team can do on the field this season coming off a winless campaign last year.

TEDY BRUSCHI LEFT, JEDD FISCH (center) and Rob Gronkowski (right) celebrate a successful Spring Game. NFL legends and UA alumni Gronkowski and Bruschi served as guest coaches April 24 in Tucson. MEGAN EWING | THE DAILY WILDCAT

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6 • The Daily Wildcat

UA Football Special Edition ● September 2021

HISTORY

The Jedd Fisch era: How we got here BY RYAN WOHL @ryan__wohl

the year. Tate shared reps at the quarterback spot throughout the season with talented young prospect The story starts with the Rich Grant Gunnell, and the two-QB Rodriguez era. The year is 2012 and system didn’t seem to work for the Arizona Wildcats hire former anyone involved in the situation. Michigan Wolverines coach to turn Sumlin ended his reign as the their program around. The first season Arizona head football coach with an went well finishing fourth in the Pacembarrassing 0-5 season, where he 12 and defeating the Nevada Wolfpack seemed to lose the locker room at a in an exciting 49-48 win in the New point in the season. This season was Mexico bowl. highlighted by a 70-7 loss at home In Rodriguez’s second season as in the territorial cup against in-state head coach, the team had a similar rival Arizona State and after that year to its previous, where they also game the chance of Sumlin returning were 8-5 with a victory in their end-oflooked very slim. the-season bowl game. After getting On the bright side, it is impossible his feet wet in the desert, fans were to take another step back this hoping he could take that next step upcoming season, right? and put this Wildcat program on a In December of 2020, the Arizona national level spotlight. They went Wildcats hired former New England 10-4 in the regular season and won the Patriots quarterbacks coach Jedd ANA BELTRAN | THE DAILY WILDCAT Pac-12 South but ended up losing in Fisch. the conference championship game to QUARTERBACK KHALIL TATE 14 RUNS the ball during the game vs. Texas Tech on Sept. 14, 2019. The Fisch has been all over the place Wildcats defeated the visiting Red Raiders at Arizona Stadium that night, giving Arizona a 2-1 record. Oregon. in his coaching career from Earning a berth to the Fiesta interim head coach to offensive Bowl left everyone surrounding coordinator to an offensive the team hopeful as it is assistant. The Wildcats will not one of the most meaningful be lacking experience from their postseason bowls in college new coaching staff, to say the football. The Wildcats fell least. Fisch then hired veteran behind early in the game but defensive coordinator Don stormed all the way back with Brown, Brennan Carroll to run a touchdown to tie the game his offense and Chuck Cecil to be against Boise State. his defensive backs coach. Fisch Freshman quarterback Anu said he wants to build a family Solomon completed a 43-yard that will stick together for years pass moving the chains to put to come, and this seems like a them at Boise State’s eight-yard good start. line with only 23 seconds to One of Fisch’s sayings since he play. Solomon looked scared arrived on campus has been, “It’s in the moment as it was the Personal.” The saying has a ton biggest of his career and ended of different meanings, but the up getting sacked while time theme stays the same: everything HEATHER NEWBERRY | THE DAILY WILDCAT CARMEN VALENCIA | THE DAILY WILDCAT expired for the game. this team does means something FORMER ARIZONA FOOTBALL HEAD coach Rich Rodriguez is KEVIN SUMLIN WAS THE head footbal coach for Arizona Rodriguez and the Wildcats while taking on the underdog from 2018-20. Sumlin was at Texas A&M previously and took a step back in the following currently the offensive coordinator at the University of Louisiana mentality. at Monroe. won the Cotton Bowl in 2013. season, winning only seven Fisch has already done a games. This continued to be very good job at recruiting, as all season to find the same stride for coach following a ton of success in the trend with his tenure in Tucson. they have the fourth-ranked class a season ago that led people hyping the SEC. There was one clear leader Ever since that magical 2014 season in the Pac-12 and No. 36 overall in him up. on the team when Sumlin arrived, he could never get back to that level. 2022 according to 247sports. He also The team finished with a poor and his name was: Khalil Tate. After He finished his coaching career at picked up the school’s first four-star 5-7 record, but Tate still improved coming off a monster 2017 season Arizona with 3-9 and 7-6 seasons and, prospect in three years. his throwing ability as he had 2,500 of over 3,000 total yards and 26 at that point, the end was clearly in In the end, we will have to judge yards and 26 touchdowns to wrap up touchdowns, major sports outlets sight. There was one thing that was Fisch and company by their actions viewed Tate as a real contender for the his junior season. The Wildcats took clear, a change needed to be made. over the next few years but the 2018 Heisman trophy. He appeared on another step back, winning only four The Wildcats would then hire program looks to be on the rise for the games while looking unprepared the cover of Sports Illustrated and was former Texas A&M coach, Kevin first time in a few years. and disinterested at points during the talk of the town. But he struggled Sumlin, a very highly sought-after


September 2021 • UA Football Special Edition

DailyWildcat.com • 7

STUDENT SECTION

ZonaZoo is back in business The Daily Wildcat spoke with the Executive Director of ZonaZoo Marissa Simental via email for more details on the university’s student section BY SEAN FAGAN @SeanSoCal

A native of Tempe, Arizona, Simental is a senior majoring in marketing and management information systems. Simental is also a Marketing and Fan Engagement Intern for Arizona Athletics and the director of External Affairs for the Sports Management Association. Daily Wildcat: What is the history of ZonaZoo? Marissa Simental: ZonaZoo all started in 2002, making this year the 20th anniversary of the Zoo. It started with a couple of students, a T-shirt and a vision. From then, ZonaZoo has become one of the best student sections in the country. After being officially recognized in 2003, ZonaZoo membership soared and created an unforgettable experience for students. Every year since then,

ZonaZoo puts on many events year-round for members — like tailgates, Bear Down Fridays, events on the mall — and overall helps to bring support to our teams and student-athletes. DW: Why did you join the ZonaZoo staff? MS: I decided to join the ZonaZoo staff because I joined ZonaZoo Crew my sophomore year. ZonaZoo Crew is a group of about 30 students who run all the operations for ZonaZoo. We plan the tailgates, Bear Down Fridays, ZonaZoo 5K and other events along with designing all the ZonaZoo merchandise and running the social medias. The experiences I had and the people I met on ZonaZoo Crew were so memorable and meant so much to me I wanted to be able to give back to ZonaZoo. It is something I have grown to be passionate about, so I decided, why not apply to be part of the executive team!

DW: What sporting events is ZonaZoo at? MS: ZonaZoo is at basically every home sporting event along with a few away games. We go to every home football and men’s basketball game, and a couple of games of all other sports, especially rivalry games against ASU. DW: Will there be any COVID-19 protocols this year? MS: ZonaZoo is currently following all the university’s protocols regarding COVID-19 but as of now it is looking like we will have tons of in-person events again and a full capacity at games for the Zoo! It is going to be a super exciting time since we were not able to do anything last year, you do not want to miss out! DW: What is the difference between sitting in general seating and sitting in the ZonaZoo?

MS: The main difference would be that ZonaZoo is only for students and exclusive to students who have purchased a ZonaZoo pass. General seating is for the public, like Tucson locals or alumni. Sitting in ZonaZoo is a whole other experience than sitting in general seating, ZonaZoo is always on their feet, being loud, crazy, and just creating hype for the team. DW: Who is allowed to sit in the ZonaZoo? MS: Only students with a ZonaZoo pass are allowed to sit in the ZonaZoo sections at games. ZonaZoo passes are also only available to undergraduate and graduate students. DW: Do you get any cool merchandise if you sit in the ZonaZoo? MS: ZonaZoo members get access to tons of cool giveaway items and merchandise throughout the year. At games

REBECCA NOBLE | THE DAILY WILDCAT

WILBUR WILDCAT CROWD SURFS in the ZonaZoo early during an Arizona vs. Stanford game at Arizona Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2016.

you can get anything from shirts, rally towels, bucket hats and more. We also have tailgates before football and basketball games and you can get free food, like Raising Canes and Taco Bell, with your CatCard! DW: Do you have any personal stories of sitting in the ZonaZoo? MS: I have so many it is hard to keep track of them all. But I do have to say some of my best memories at the University of Arizona are from being in ZonaZoo and seeing our teams make history. One of my favorites would have to be beating ASU in McKale [Center] and just being able to be part of all the hype and energy that the student section brought that game. DW: Why would you encourage incoming freshmen to be a part of the ZonaZoo? MS: I would encourage incoming freshman to be part of ZonaZoo because it is seriously one of the best decisions I could have ever made. In my opinion, it is almost an essential part of your freshman year to go to the games and be part of one of the best student sections there is. Some of the best memories I have had in college come from being with my friends in the Zoo and just going crazy. And the amount of cool ZonaZoo shirts and free food I have gotten at games throughout the years is a plus too! DW: How/Where do you get tickets for ZonaZoo? MS: You can get ZonaZoo tickets on our website: zonazoo. squarespace.com. You can also find the link on our social media pages! Our Instagram is @zonazoooffical and our Twitter is @ZonaZooOfficial as well!


8 • The Daily Wildcat

UA Football Special Edition ● September 2021

SENIOR PROFILE

Yes, Bryce Wolma is still here Change is an interesting concept that can be difficult for many to accept. It can serve you for better or worse, though most people would choose the former. And, sometimes, it can also feel like a never-ending cycle. Arizona football tight end Bryce Wolma knows a thing or two about this BY BRYAN SAVIC @bryan_savic

Since he first arrived in Tucson as a true freshman back in 2017, Arizona tight end Bryce Wolma has undergone a coaching carousel that has involved three different head coaches and coaching staffs. All three brought their own coaching philosophies, styles and energy, playing through the tenures of former head coaches in Rich Rodriguez, Kevin Sumlin and now Jedd Fisch. After an exceptional senior season at Saline High School that saw him haul in over 700 receiving yards and eight touchdowns, the Michigan native wasted no time making a strong impression on Rodriguez and the rest of the coaching staff. As a reward for his efforts, he earned a spot in the starting lineup and hasn’t looked back since. He went on to make seven starts in 13 games played during his first season at Arizona as a true freshman. Wolma played an instrumental role in Arizona’s dynamic rushing attack during the 2017 season as they finished fourth in the nation with over 290 rushing yards per game. That same year, Wolma finished with a total of 28 receptions, the most receptions in a single season for a true tight end since none other than Rob Gronkowski accomplished the feat during the 2008 campaign. As the 2017 season concluded, Arizona decided that Rodriguez wasn’t in their plans for the future and elected to dismiss him of his head coaching duties in favor of his successor, Sumlin. Due

to the arrival of Sumlin, it only made sense that Wolma would continue to be a constant fixture in the passing attack as Sumlin was known in part for utilizing his tight ends a lot as pass catchers at Texas A&M. Unfortunately for Wolma, this was far from the truth. In his sophomore season in 2018, he was limited to only five receptions for the entire year. Despite the lack of targets, he still played an integral role in pass blocking as Arizona went on to allow only 20 sacks which was good enough for third fewest in the Pac-12 that season. Wolma’s biggest moment that year actually came before the season kicked off, as he was acknowledged as part of the preseason watch list for the John Mackey Award, an award that recognizes the nation’s most exceptional tight end on and off the field. Wolma certainly doesn’t fit the mold of the negative stereotype that is commonly associated with student athletes as being nonacademically sound. To add to his list of accolades, he was named to the Pac-12 All-Academic First Team in 2018, as well as the Pac-12 Fall Academic Honor Roll in 2019. Wolma’s feats on the field have been as outstanding in the classroom, if not better. During the 2019 season, Sumlin’s plans for Wolma in his offense remained unchanged as he finished the season with only five receptions and 62 receiving yards to his name. Despite being a non-factor in the passing attack, he was still very effective as a run blocker as he helped the rushing attack achieve the 2,000-yard rushing milestone for the season. One of Wolma’s

SIMON ASHER | THE DAILY WILDCAT

ARIZONA’S BRYCE WOLMA 81 JUKES and throws off an ASU defender during the first quarter of the UA-ASU game in 2017. In the past four years he has been with Arizona, he’s seen three different head coaches.

biggest moments from that season came against Hawaii in the season opener that saw him snag a 14-yard receiving touchdown. For the 2020 season, Wolma picked up another accolade by being acknowledged to the watch list for the Wuerffel Trophy, an award that recognizes a college football player that demonstrates having the most profound impact on the community. The season itself didn’t provide fans with much to cheer about as Arizona finished 0-5 in the shortened season. To no one’s surprise, Wolma finished with only five catches once again for the second straight year. After the dismissal of Sumlin following the conclusion of the 2020 campaign, in came Fisch. Fisch promised Wolma that he’d play a more integral role in

his passing attack. Wolma said he couldn’t help but feel a little skeptical about this promise at first. “When coach [Fisch] called me initially and was telling me how he was going to use the tight ends and then coach [Jordan] Paopao called me and said the same thing,” Wolma said, “I was like, okay, I’ve heard that spiel before. We’ll see if that’s really true. When I came in the spring, it happened to be all true. I was on the field catching balls. I believed him, but at the same time I don’t want to get my hopes up.” Wolma wasn’t shy to give his new head coach raving reviews and appreciated how Fisch has been excellent in community outreach, an area he said he feels has been lacking the last several years within the football program. “My favorite part is not just the

team to believe in his message, but the community,” Wolma said. “It’s been awesome to see the kind of involvement and things that he’s done to get fans excited for this upcoming season. I think that’s something Arizona football needs and was missing the last couple of years. He’s definitely brought that back to Tucson.” For all the change that has taken place throughout Wolma’s collegiate career, he now feels rejuvenated after buying into Fisch’s message and is ecstatic to take the field with his teammates and coaches. “This is the first time in a while that I’m super excited to play football,” Wolma said. “I’m super excited to play football for this staff [and] for these guys in the locker room. We are all bought in, so it’s going to be a really fun year.”


September 2021 • UA Football Special Edition

DailyWildcat.com • 9

THE TEAM

It’s personnel: Key position groups BY SEAN FAGAN @seansocal

There is new life in the Arizona football locker room with head coach Jedd Fisch now in charge. After going 0-5 in the previous season, starting the season strong is crucial for the Wildcats so they can prove this team is not the same as last season. Here are the three positions that the Wildcats will need the most production out of to have a successful season.

position on the team. Last season, the Wildcats used an average of three to four running backs per game with no players establishing themselves as the starter. The only game in which a

running back ran for more than 100 yards last season was against Colorado, but Arizona still lost the game 24-13. In some games, all the Arizona running backs would not even equal the number of yards

from one running back on the other team. Michael Wiley returns after carding 222 yards and three touchdowns last year. The twoquarterback system will need to fall back on him when the passing

Wide Receivers

Quarterback

For weeks it was a mystery as to which quarterback Fisch would start for the 2021 season. After weeks of waiting, Fisch announced the Wildcats would be playing a two-quarterback system featuring Gunner Cruz and Will Plummer. Plummer is the quarterback with the most experience, but he has only played in three games, all of which were blowout losses last year. Cruz has had limited experience in college football, but his impressive workouts and practices earned him a spot as a starting quarterback. Fisch discussed that each quarterback would get playing time in the first half, and those results will determine who will play out the second half. Regardless of who has more success, they will need to improve their offense to stand a chance in the Pac-12. Last year, the Arizona offense finished last in the Pac-12 in total points per game, third-down conversion percentage, fourthdown conversion percentage, red zone percentage and touchdown percentage in the red zone. If numbers like this are even close to being repeated, it does not matter what system is ran at quarterback, so Cruz and Plummer either must make it work together or one of them will have to step up and prove to Fisch that they are the sole starting quarterback.

ANA BELTRAN | THE DAILY WILDCAT

JAMARYE JOINER 10, TRAILED by teammate Stanley Berryhill III (86), scores A touchdown during the first half of the game versus Washington on Oct. 12, 2019.

Running Back

Arizona needs to get an established run game going, because the running back position may be the most dysfunctional

game is not working. Fisch has newer options in the backfield, like Tucson native Stevie Rocker Jr. He joined the Wildcats in spring of 2021 as one of Fisch’s first recruiting classes. Rocker went to Canyon Del Oro High School and was rated as a top-20 prospect in the state of Arizona. As a sophomore in 2018, he had 1,163 yards rushing and a dozen touchdowns. If Wiley is not able to separate himself from the field, Rocker is not a bad second option.

MEGAN EWING | THE DAILY WILDCAT

GUNNER CRUZ LEFT AND Will Plummer (right) train on Tuesday, April 13, in Tucson.

Fisch has established most of his wide receiving core with returning veterans in Stanley Berryhill III and Jamarye Joiner. Berryhill III had a breakout year in the shortened 2020 season, recording 227 yards and three touchdowns in five games to lead the Wildcats. Joiner was the team’s leading receiver in their last full season with 552 yards and five touchdowns. The final starting position is between Boobie Curry, Tayvian Cunningham and Jalen Johnson. In his true freshman season, Curry finished the season with six catches for 68 yards and one kick return for 22 yards. Last year, Curry caught 10 passes for 89 yards in all five of Arizona’s games in his first year as a starter. Cunningham finished the 2019 season with seven kick returns for 138 yards with a long of 30, along with four receptions of 40 or more yards. Cunningham established himself as a dominant receiver in 2020 in the season opener against USC, where he had five catches for 110 yards and a touchdown against USC. Cunningham finished the season with nine catches for 139 yards and a touchdown, along with 11 kickoff returns for 212 yards. Johnson finished the 2019 season with seven catches for 79 yards and one touchdown. In the shortened 2020 season, Johnson did not make an appearance. Cruz and Plummer are going to need all the offensive weapons they can get, so whoever Fisch decides on will have their hands full with expectations and a tough schedule.


10 • The Daily Wildcat

UA Football Special Edition ● September 2021

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September 2021 • UA Football Special Edition

DailyWildcat.com • 13

UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA WILDCATS I 2021 FOOTBALL SCHEDULE vs.

vs.

Saturday I Sept. 4, 2021 Allegiant Stadium I Las Vegas

Friday I Oct. 22, 2021 Arizona Stadium I Tucson

vs.

vs.

Saturday I Sept. 11, 2021 Arizona Stadium I Tucson

Saturday I Oct. 30, 2021 Memorial Coliseum I Los Angeles

vs.

vs.

Saturday I Sept. 18, 2021 Arizona Stadium I Tucson

Saturday I Nov. 6, 2021 Arizona Stadium I Tucson

vs.

vs.

Saturday I Sept. 25, 2021 Autzen Stadim I Eugene, Oregon

Saturday I Nov. 13, 2021 Arizona Stadium I Tucson

vs.

vs.

Saturday I Oct. 9, 2021 Arizona Stadium I Tucson

Friday I Nov. 19, 2021 Gesa Field I Pullman, Washington

vs.

Saturday I Oct. 16, 2021 Folsom Field I Boulder, Colorado

vs.

COURTESY MIKE CHRISTY | ARIZONA ATHLETICS

Saturday I Nov. 26, 2021 Sun devil stadium I Tempe


2021

DAILYWILDCAT.COM

UNIVERSITY

NEW

LOOK.

OF

ARIZONA

OLD

FOOTBALL

SCHOOL.


September 2021 • UA Football Special Edition

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16 • The Daily Wildcat

UA Football Special Edition ● September 2021

STAFF PREDICTIONS

Roundtable: How many games will Arizona football win this season? BY THE DAILY WILDCAT SPORTS STAFF @WildcatSports

BY JORDAN POLLOCK @TURBOPOLLOCK

5-7

Though never having any previous head coaching experience, I have loved what Jedd Fisch has done since day one. Fisch has worked to change the culture by dipping into the past, with key coaching staff pickups of alumni Ricky Hunley and Chuck Cecil, and adding Tedy Bruschi as a senior advisor. Pulling out talent from other schools through the transfer portal

BY BRYAN SAVIC @bryan_savic

4-8

After coming off one of their worst seasons in recent memory, it’s no surprise that many people and sports pundits alike have very moderate expectations for the Arizona football team this season, myself included. This team’s ceiling is four wins. Any more than that would be really pushing it. Yes, it’s true that Jedd Fisch has already proven himself as one of the savviest promoters in all of college football. That’s great and all, however he was hired as head coach and not head promoter. He’s still yet to prove himself as a head coach and he’ll certainly get that chance in the season opener against BYU. Not taking anything away from Fisch, as he’s done an excellent job of getting his players to buy into his philosophy and system. He’s also been great with community outreach

was important for this roster almost as much as getting veteran players to withdraw their names and stay. Fisch getting veteran players to buy in early is a trend that I believe will take a few full seasons to see the fruit of winning on the field. This team has talent and enough experienced coaching to win some games, which is a lot more than we could say about this team 10 months ago. I think this team will go 5-7 which is one win short of making a bowl appearance.

and has given fans a renewed sense of excitement that we haven’t seen surrounding the football team for a while now. However, he has inherited a team with a lot of question marks, especially at the quarterback position. Whoever is named the starting quarterback will have to be more than a field general if Arizona is going to have any chance of being competitive this season. Now, I do see the defense improving this year thanks to the creative play calling of new defensive coordinator Don Brown. A guy that is known for dialing up exotic blitz packages that should play to the strengths of the defensive front seven. Realistically, I could see Arizona finishing with a 4-8 record at most due to their strength of schedule and how they are currently in full rebuild mode right now. Still, a win or two would be considered a successful campaign after what transpired last season.

BY SEAN FAGAN @SeanSoCal

4-8

I understand all the hype surrounding head coach Jedd Fisch and the Wildcats this year, but this team is in rebuild mode. Last year the team went 0-5 and had one of the worst offenses and defenses in the country. Most of those players are still here and until Fisch gets the players he

wants nothing will change. I believe Arizona will win their first three games of the season, but after that it will go downhill because Pac-12 play begins. Their sole conference win should come against University of California, Berkley during homecoming weekend because the Golden Bears are the only other team in the Pac-12 as bad as Arizona. Bear Down… for a rough season.

THE DAILY WILDCAT PHOTO DESK

ARIZONA CURRENT AND FORMER quarterbacks Gunner Cruz (left), Will Plummer (left center), Khalil Tate (right center) and Grant Gunnell (right). Cruz and Plummer are the current starters, while Tate graduated and Gunnell transferred to Memphis.

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September 2021 • UA Football Special Edition

DailyWildcat.com • 17

SPORTS ROUNDTABLE

is team will struggle in every area this season as it is a new “Thsystem, new players, new coaches, so it could resemble last season at some points but just remember, trust the process.”  RYAN WOHL, DAILY WILDCAT ASSISTANT SPORTS EDITOR BY RYAN WOHL @ryan__wohl

3-9

The only way from here is up, and I believe that this season is more about the development of the Wildcats young talent than about games won necessarily. The spirit of this team has changed dramatically over the last six months with the new coaching changes and that is the first step to building a winning culture. Fisch recently named co-starting quarterbacks with Will Plummer and Gunner Cruz. I’m not the

BY JAKE FAIGUS @jake_faigus

4-8

I think that the Arizona football team should be improved this year. The only way to go from where they were is up. The last coaching staff left the cupboard bare, so there just isn’t a lot of talent on either side of the ball, with quarterback

BY ASHER BOOKSPAN @abookspan

3-9

After not winning since 2019, I was skeptical of the hiring of Jedd Fisch. Seeing the support from alumni like Rob Gronkowski and Tedy Bruschi, as well as who he brought in on his coaching staff, I think there is a reason to look forward to the season. The starting quarterback spot remains a question, but the offensive line has had a strong summer. I think the skill position players have

biggest fan of this idea, because we saw how it worked out when Sumlin tried to do it two seasons ago with Khalil Tate and Grant Gunnell. I do believe that Fisch is unsure now but will decide about the leader of his offense a few weeks into the season. This team will struggle in every area this season as it is a new system, new players, new coaches, so it could resemble last season at some points but just remember, trust the process. I am predicting a three-win season for the Wildcats this season as their schedule is relatively hard.

being the biggest hole to fill. I think bright spots exist at running back and wide receiver, and then also the defensive backfield. Overall, I believe the effort will be there for the team, where it wasn’t last year, and I believe this team can finish 4-8, which would be a success with the schedule they have, and they can use that momentum to aim for a bowl game in 2022.

the potential to be productive depending on how the twoquarterback approach goes. In my opinion, hiring Don “Dr. Blitz” Brown as defensive coordinator was a smart move. I think the defense will take a step forward this year under the aggressive style of play Brown brings. When I look at the team Fisch has assembled and the energy he has brought since being hired, I am cautiously optimistic for this upcoming season. I think Arizona will go 3-9 with a win over ASU.

COURTESY STAN LIU/ ARIZONA ATHLETICS

SOPHOMORE QUARTERBACK KHALIL TATE (14) during the Wildcats’ 45-42 win over the Colorado Buffaloes on Oct. 7, 2017, at Folsom Field in Boulder, Colorado.


18 • The Daily Wildcat

UA Football Special Edition ● September 2021

MARCHING BAND

The Pride of Arizona is ready ...

BY JT THORPE @JT_Thorpe_

Ever since the University of Arizona’s baseball and softball teams began to fill seats during games at about 16% capacity in early March, the football team has been taking its own steps towards what could be a more normal season this fall. This, along with the university moving back to in-person instruction this semester, which was initially announced by President Dr. Robert C. Robbins on March 8, means that the community can most likely expect the Pride of Arizona marching band to be back as well — if conditions continue to permit. “I want to plan on full operations so that we’re ready if we can,” said assistant professor Chad Shoopman, the University of Arizona’s director of athletic bands. “I hope we’re going to be back to normal, but we’re definitely going to have a plan in place that will allow us to pivot if we need to. We’re going to do what’s going to keep everyone safe and healthy.” While many marching bands across the U.S. completely stopped all in-person activities in fall 2020, the UA was still able to hold an in-person class option for students. It just wasn’t like anything they had ever experienced before, from wearing custom-made masks with

JT THORPE | THE DAILY WILDCAT

MAX TUCKER, A DRUM MAJOR for the Pride of Arizona marching band, plays the mellophone during pep band rehearsal on the Arizona Stadium football field on Wednesday, March 3, 2021, in Tucson. They were there to record a few songs while dressed in uniform.

openings for mouthpieces and covering up instrument bells to social distancing and little to no marching whatsoever for the first time in the band’s over-100-year history. “[Not marching] was a hard decision to make,” Max Tucker, one of the Pride’s current drum majors and a UA senior, said via email, “but ultimately, it made

upholding the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidelines of physical distancing a lot more manageable. As a result, the band solely focused on music performance [in 2020] in order to limit potential spread of the virus.” According to Shoopman, another reason why the Pride didn’t march last

fall was because the Pac-12 decided that bands weren’t necessary if there were no fans in the stadiums. As Arizona football began to slowly open things back up after using their own phased-in approach to reentry, though, he said he is hopeful that these steps will continue to extend to the marching band as well. Even further, Arizona Athletics announced in June that fans can expect the stadium to operate at full capacity again. “On [March 31], Arizona Athletics announced … up to 5,000 fans at the Arizona Spring Game … 200 fans at Dick Tomey practice fields … and 1,500 for practices at Arizona Stadium,” Matt Ensor, the director of Communication Services for Arizona Athletics said via email. “Obviously our planning will continue to be flexible as we progress to ensure health and safety are at the forefront of everything we do.” Similarly, as Shoopman mentioned, health and safety is a major focus for the Pride as well. Tucker said that if it were not for the band’s “selfless and caring” professional staff working hard to ensure that every band member still had a fun experience while still remaining safe, the 2020 season would have been a lot worse, but the future is already looking much better. “With the way things are looking currently with vaccinations … and [the

PRIDE OF ARIZONA: TIMELINE 1920

1945

ROTC Band dissolves & the “Arizona Band” takes over and grows up to 40 men

After WWII, women could finally join the Arizona Band

| 1902 UA ROTC Band established, military uniforms, only 12 members, all were men

|

1954 The Band hosts its first annual “Band Day,” as the first band in the nation to use moving formations and marching charts

|

|

|

|

>

1928

1952

1967

The Band is the first band from Arizona to play on the radio

Jack Lee, who wrote the “Bear Down, Arizona” fight song, becomes the Band’s director

The Band performs at the first Super Bowl halftime show in the L.A. Coliseum

(Photos courtesy of University of Arizona Libraries, Special Collections)


September 2021 • UA Football Special Edition

DailyWildcat.com • 19

MARCHING BAND

... for a comeback this season reentry plan], a return to a normal marching band season is looking more and more likely each day,” Tucker said. “We remain hopeful … that we will be able to cheer on the football team [this] fall.” So far, this year has been operating just like any other, aside from the university’s indoor mask mandate, which Shoopman made clear the entire band follows. The Pride was even able to hold a fully in-person band camp — a summer camp where marching band students meet from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. for seven days straight to learn music and drill that will be used throughout the season. As per tradition, the band met the current head football coach Jedd Fisch and Arizona Athletic Director Dave Heeke on the first day of band camp in the Fred Fox School of Music to talk about plans for this season. “We’re super excited about doing this thing together,” Fisch said. “I’ve reached out to [Shoopman] about how we’re going to make this season special, how we’re going to be unique and different … . We’re going to bring the spirit back to Arizona.” To stand out this season, Fisch said he wants Arizona to solidify game day traditions. For one, he said the football team will find the Pride at the end of every single home game to sing along to the music and thank them and the

fans for their contribution to the season. Similarly, Heeke also wanted to express his gratitude to the band. “This is a group about excellence,” Heeke said. “You guys are the live wire of what goes on here. There’s no doubt about it that the Pride of Arizona is a huge part of what makes Arizona great. … I’m excited to see you play again and

band represents the pageantry of college football,” Fisch said. “What they don’t have in the NFL and what they do in college is a band and a dying feeling of love for the school you go to and graduated from. That’s why I came back to college football. That’s why I’m so happy that I’m at the University of Arizona.” At the “Pride Rookie Orientation

We’re going to make this season special ... be unique and different. We’re going to bring the spirit back to Arizona.” — JEDD FISCH, HEAD ARIZONA FOOTBALL COACH

be a part of it. You’ve been genuinely missed.” Fisch also talked about how excited he is to be working with Arizona football and how his decision had to do with his love for the pageantry of college football. “There’s nothing better, and the

Dinner” — where new members are welcomed the night before band camp begins — on Aug. 13, Shoopman wanted to stress to his students the importance of appreciating everything, especially after the pandemic made many realize how quickly things can be taken away.

He reminded the band to be grateful that they are even able to experience a regular season so far, and even more so for the opportunity to cheer on the football team at their first game on Sept. 4, in Nevada. “We’re going to Las Vegas, to Allegiant Stadium,” Shoopman said. “We’re going to be the first college bands — us and BYU — to play in that stadium ever. It’s going to be a great experience. And it’s coming up quick. We do band camp, we have five rehearsals, we get on the buses and go. It’s that fast. That’s a challenge. And after a year and a half off, it’s an extra challenge. But the challenges before you are just opportunities. … I can’t [express] how excited I am for our first notes, our first steps on the field.” As the world has dealt with the pandemic for over a year now, Shoopman said that the initial decision to have a Panic! At The Disco show for 2020 was “oddly meant to be,” which is why the Pride will be sticking with this theme for the 2021 season. With such songs as Victorious and High Hopes, the show will involve the idea of overcoming adversity and emphasize feelings of excitement and positivity. “Next year’s Pride of Arizona won’t be like anything this university has ever seen,” Tucker said. “You better be ready because we’re going to hit ‘em hard and show ‘em who’s who.”

PRIDE OF ARIZONA: TIMELINE 1980 The Band is officially nicknamed the “Pride of Arizona”

2004

2021

Twirling coach Shirlee Bertolini, the “Grande Dame” of the Pride of Arizona, celebrates her 50th year with the band

The Pride is back in person after a pandemic season, and will be one of the two first college bands to perform in Allegiant Stadium

| | | | | 1995 Jay C. Rees becomes the band director, the Pride is labeled “The World’s First Alternative Music Marching Band”

2016 Chad Shoopman, UA alumnus, jons the Pride again at the new (and current) band director (Photos courtesy of the Daily Wildcat)

2019

The Pride’s 66th Annual Band Day performance goes viral after being praised by all four members of the band No Doubt


20 • The Daily Wildcat

UA Football Special Edition ● September 2021

DEFENSIVE COACH

Don Brown: The doctor is in BY PATRICK CARR @pfcsports99

PHOTO BY MIKE CHRISTY | ARIZONA ATHLETICS

DON BROWN, DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR at the Arizona Football Fall Camp Red-Blue Scrimmage in Arizona Stadium on Aug. 21, 2021.

The new and fully refreshed Wildcat coaching staff debuts their schemes and game planning in a marquee game in Las Vegas. With the season opener against BYU looming, Arizona football has never been quite the talk of the town like it is currently. New head coach Jedd Fisch has been saying all the right things, made impressive coaching hires, created a new excitement in Tucson for football and so far has recruited his butt off. The most prominent move he may have made though is hiring defensive coordinator Don Brown. Brown is one of the most accomplished coordinators in the country, has routinely had top 5 defenses in his tenure and now it’s his goal to try to bring Arizona near that rank. Before Fisch came along, there could only have been hopes and dreams of someone with a high stature like Brown to take an assistant job here in Tucson, but that is where the large branch of connections Fisch has come into play. Brown and Fisch coached together in Michigan as a part of Jim Harbaugh’s staff. Michigan is where Brown has held a top 5 defense every year he was employed in Ann Arbor, except for this past weird COVID-19 2020 season which led to his departure. Harbaugh thought highly of Brown before this recent split as he said, “He’s a legend in my mind, everything he has done and been associated with has been successful … . To hear the way he has affected lives and made people developed individuals is on the same par as people talk to me about my dad.” Brown is an extremely energetic and animated coach on the sidelines, and in practice he was asked recently if he would be calling plays from the booth or the sidelines. “If I was in the booth, I would be scaling the booth to the ground. I tried that once and it didn’t work so well for me,” Brown said.

Brown will attempt to bring that BIG10 physicality and energy to Arizona and give the rest of the conference a wake-up call. Brown said he has noticed the Pac12 “airs it out more and whips it around.” Being at practices and press conferences, Brown is consistently brought up with his influence on players and his peer coaches. About a week ago, Arizona also received a verbal commitment from a four-star linebacker and one of the highest rated defensive recruits in school history. Fisch said in the introductory press conference for the staff that “having a guy like that in the room makes you feel a lot more comfortable in these visits and meetings.” His presence is already giving that newfound life for the current team and the future state of the program.

... having a guy like that in the room makes you feel a lot more comfortable in these visits and meetings.” — JEDD FISCH, ARIZONA FOOTBALL HEAD COACH What to look for right off the bat with this new defense early on in the season is how fast the players are flying to the ball and the physicality they are hitting with. The talent and scheme may not be fully in place just yet, but something Brown will always have from his defense is 110% effort and extremely tough dudes. The test in week one will be pretty good as BYU has turned into a mid-major machine and just produced the second overall pick at quarterback. Let’s see what Brown and Fisch can put together and if it follows suit with the hype being felt around Tucson.


September 2021 • UA Football Special Edition

DailyWildcat.com • 21

COACHES

A fan’s guide to 2021 Arizona football coaches The University of Arizona is preparing for quite the comeback after an odd season of canceled games during the pandemic. The UA crowned Jedd Fisch as its head football coach and is bringing in Arizona football Hall of Famers and coaches with hefty resumes, as well as new faces to take the team to the top of the rank. Fisch’s many connections-turned-coaches are coming in handy for this anticipated football season BY JACQUELINE AGUILAR @itseljaguilar

Brennan Carroll – Offensive Coordinator / Offensive Line Brennan Carroll reigned from the Seattle Seahawks and was hired by Fisch on Jan. 1, 2021, after working together while coaching for Miami. After dedicating 13 years to coaching at the collegiate level, Carroll paved his way into the NFL. Being the Run Game Coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks from 2015-20 allowed Carroll to aid in the offense’s success. Players under Carroll have seen the Pro Bowl as many as 11 times while ranking top

five in rushing for three seasons. As an offensive coach, Carroll focuses on how important it is to keep your mind clear to minimize any potential slip-ups while protecting the ball. “The mentality is so important on protecting the ball and then understanding where your runs are. Don’t force things, don’t make stuff up,” Carroll said at Arizona football’s Fall Camp.

Chuck Cecil – Assistant Coach / Defensive Backs College Football Hall of Famer and UA alum, Chuck Cecil, has dedicated his skills to Arizona football since 2018. Chuck Cecil, former Arizona football star, is back to re-establish the football program. Previous to working for the UA, Cecil was the senior defensive assistant for the Los Angeles Rams. In 2016, the Rams had an exceptional season, ranking in the top 10. In just one year, the defense’s rank moved up 12 spots from 26th to 14th. Starting as a senior defensive analyst, interim defensive coordinator/safeties and now defensive backs coach, Cecil’s experience dates back to the Tennessee

Titans in 2001 as a defensive assistant/quality control. Cecil’s football coaching expertise has always stayed loyal to his work. “There is no sound on the tape, right? … The points that you allow, the yards that you allow, the completions that you allow, the interceptions that you make. ... That is who you are. What you put on tape,” Cecil told assembled media at Arizona’s Fall Camp.

Jimmie Dougherty – Assistant Coach / Passing Game Coordinator & Quarterbacks Former Missouri quarterback, Jimmie Dougherty, was appointed to his role in early January along with others Fisch hired. Working for the Washington Huskies as the wide receivers coach, Dougherty aided Jermaine Kearse’s 1,005-yard season. Dougherty had great performative

seasons as UCLA’s passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach since 2017. Players respect Dougherty’s effort towards maintaining good relationships with the team to keep the dynamic flowing.

Kevin Cummings – Assistant Coach / Wide Receivers L.A. native, Kevin Cummings joined Arizona football following his successful coaching career with San Jose State. His coaching with the Spartans allotted for the team’s 7-1 2020 season. Cummings also aided at Oregon State as a quality control coach.

Keith Dudzinski – Assistant Coach / Linebackers & Special Teams Keith Dudzinski has racked up 30-years worth of coaching experience to bring to Arizona football. Dudzinski coached at Michigan under Arizona’s defensive coordinator, Don Brown.

He began his coaching career at New Haven, where he attended college, in 1991. Dudzinski has also coached four seasons at Albany, where he received tenure before coaching at Michigan.

Scottie Graham – Assistant Coach / Running Backs The Ohio State graduate, Scottie Graham, is a New York native and was a high school All-American in various sports. Playing for the New York Jets and Minnesota Vikings, Graham made it his goal to stay involved within football. He has assisted in the NFL Draft Combine, Board Player Representative Meetings and

Former Players Convention. The running back coach worked at ASU for the last six years as the lead administrator for student-athlete development and welfare.


22 • The Daily Wildcat

UA Football Special Edition ● September 2021

PROJECTIONS

Media predictions for Arizona football After a winless season last year under former head coach Kevin Sumlin, the media has not been kind to Arizona football. Many expect Arizona to disappoint in Jedd Fisch’s first year as the new head coach BY ASHER BOOKSPAN @abookspan

When looking at some of the projections from ESPN, Arizona is ranked No. 98 out of 130 college football teams. ESPN also projects the team to have an overall record of 3-9. Not only that, but Arizona is predicted to have a 3.1% chance to win six games and a 0% chance to win the conference or division. With every other team in the Pac-12 projected to have at least a 20% chance or higher to win six games, ESPN’s expectations for Arizona are very low. The Pac-12 media voted Arizona to finish last in the division and conference as well, receiving only 41 votes from the media poll. That is 24 votes away from the projected second to last team, Washington State University. CBS Sports followed the trend and projected Arizona to finish last in their division and has them ranked No. 94 out of 130 teams. CBS Sports also ranked Fisch as the second to worst coach in their rankings of all 65 coaches in the Power Five conferences. While citing Fisch’s lack of head coaching experience in college football as a reason for the low ranking, CBS Sports did say his experience as an offensive coach in the NFL and college football gives him an advantage over the No. 65 coach, Shane Beamer. The Arizona Desert Swarm was more optimistic with their season predictions. While none of the reporters predicted Arizona to win more than five games, none picked a record lower than 4-8.

Nick J. Lee, a reporter for Vanquish the Foe, a BYU sports newsroom, predicted Arizona losing by a score of 24-20. Lee cited defensive struggles from Arizona last season, where Arizona ranked No. 114 in team defense and No. 120 in points allowed. This was the main reason he predicted BYU will be able to move the ball well against Arizona and ultimately win. In an article by the Associated Press, they wrote the opposite in their analysis of Arizona’s offseason. One of the changes mentioned right away was the hiring of Don “Dr. Blitz” Brown as the new defensive coordinator. The AP reasoned that Brown brings 45 years of coaching experience, most recently at the University of Michigan from 2016 to 2020. They also noted his blitz-heavy style of defensive play that should be a stark contrast to the less aggressive HEATHER NEWBERRY | THE DAILY WILDCAT defensive play in years past. THE “A” FLAG IS held up by Arizona cheerleaders during the Arizona-Oregon State game on Nov. 11, 2017, at Arizona Stadium. On the offensive side of the ball, the Associated Press ARIZONA WILDCATS predicts that Fisch will have RUNNING BACK Jalen the quarterback under center John (21) jumps to catch a more and could shift from a football in practice before typically fast-paced offense to the Arizona Wildcats vs. a scheme that expands the role Colorado Buffaloes game of the running game. Arizona’s at Arizona Stadium on Dec. offensive line was predicted to 5, 2020. be a strong unit with the team also having playmakers at both LAUREN SALGADO the receiver and running back | THE DAILY WILDCAT position The team has a chance to start the season strong and break a 12-game losing streak BEFORE THE FOOTBALL dating back to 2019. Arizona GAME Sept. 28, 2019, football has a chance to show Wilbur walked around improvement by winning even giving high fives and hugs one game this season. With a to fans. new coaching staff in Arizona, the team seemingly can only AMY BAILEY | go upwards after hitting rock THE DAILY WILDCAT bottom last season.


September 2021 • UA Football Special Edition

DailyWildcat.com • 23

OPENER RECAP

BYU spoils Jedd Fisch’s debut The BYU Cougars defeated the Arizona Wildcats by a score of 24-16 in the Good Sam Vegas Kickoff Classic at Allegiant Stadium Saturday, Sept. 4 BY RYAN WOHL @ryan_wohl

For the first game of the Jedd Fisch era, things went better than the last time we saw the Wildcats on the field. This was the first test of the duo starting quarterback experience and Gunner Cruz was the player who saw more playing time in the opening game. “He did a lot of things that were pretty good, but there were some things that we could improve upon,” Fisch said. “We certainly can’t take four sacks; we took sacks that knocked us out of field goal range.” Fisch was very positive about Cruz’s performance after the game understanding it was the first collegiate start of his career. “You want to talk about a kid that battled I mean, this guy’s got four years of football left in him, and he battled his tail off, and this is not easy,” Fisch said. “I feel really good about the way Gunner played tonight.” Cruz finished 34-45 with 336 passing yards, one touchdown, and one interception. Will Plummer, the other player part of the duo quarterback trial run, saw limited time on the field, throwing the ball only three times for a total of nine yards. “If you’re going to go out there and have 141 quarterback rating in your first game you’ve ever started, it would be tough not to play [Cruz] right now,” Fisch said. Fisch now has a decision he has to make: give the co-starting quarterback experiment another week to play itself out or choose someone right now. The decision looks clear after Cruz’s performance and playing time against BYU. In sports, when a coach or a major change is made in an organization, fans and supporters of a team always want to compare the new regime to the past version, but Fisch wants to move forward. “It’s really hard for me to compare, you know. I really don’t want to,” Fisch said. “We just want to compete. I love the way

COURTESY MIKE CHRISTY / ARIZONA ATHLETICS

ARIZONA DEFENSIVE LINEMAN TREVON MASON tackles BYU quarterback on Saturday, Sept. 4. The play was counted as a 0.5 sack and safety in the third quarter.

our guys battled, and I love the energy and the fight.” Cruz shared Fisch’s thoughts about the team’s performance. “This team has really bought into the process of winning,” Cruz said. “We have a great coaching staff in place that is going to get us there, and I’m excited to see where we’ll go in the next couple of weeks.” The Wildcats wide receivers came to play at Allegiant Stadium on Saturday night. Berryhill III led the team with 12 receptions for a total of 102 yards. Running back Michael Wiley finished the game second in yards with 66. Tayvian Cunningham added four catches along

with 59 yards, bringing his speed to the offense. “It was a great experience; it was surreal to be out there … and I felt like a little kid again,” Wiley said. Wiley led the team in rushing yards and attempts with 64 yards on 15 rushes. Drake Anderson was the second back who received work but only put together 35 yards in the game. “We want to get this taste out of our mouth. We really want to,” Cruz said. “This team is really good, we play with a lot of heart, we love each other and we love football.” The defense was excellent in this game.

Allowing only 368 yards and 24 points is a big improvement from a season ago. The defenses leader Anthony Pandy has kept a positive mindset while going through this change over the past year. “I think, as a team, we know we’re capable of,” Pandy said. “Just self-inflicted mistakes. It’s all we can improve on.” Despite a loss in Las Vegas, the spirits seem good in the Wildcats locker room, which is the opposite of what appeared to be the case at the end of the Sumlin era. The Arizona Wildcats take on the San Diego State Aztecs in their home opener this Saturday, Sept. 11 at 7 p.m. MST at Arizona Stadium.


24 • The Daily Wildcat

UA Football Special Edition ● September 2021

Profile for Arizona Daily Wildcat

Daily Wildcat | Football Preview 2021 | Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021  

Daily Wildcat | Football Preview 2021 | Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021  

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