Recent happenings related to Arizona Wildcats football, gathered from various sources:
Quarterback Grant Gunnell had a good freshman year for Arizona. How good was it in the context of other freshman QBs?
Bill Connelly of ESPN.com ranked Gunnell as the No. 8 freshman passer of 2019, which featured multiple standout newcomers.
Gunnell split time with senior Khalil Tate and finished the campaign with 1,239 yards, nine touchdown passes and only one interception. Gunnell completed 65.2% of his throws.
Wrote Connelly: “Losing streaks are never good, and Arizona finished the season with seven straight losses, all by double digits. But if there was a silver lining, it's that this season gave Gunnell, Khalil Tate's backup, plenty of opportunities. He threw more than 20 passes in three games and produced a passer rating of 140-plus in all three; he torched UCLA in an early-season win and looked good in a shootout loss to Oregon State. He's the man in 2020, and most of Arizona's receivers return, too. Unexpected hope in Tucson?”
To give you an indication of how strong a year it was for freshman quarterbacks, Connelly’s top five were Kedon Slovis of USC, Sam Howell of North Carolina, Dillon Gabriel of UCF, Bo Nix of Auburn and Jayden Daniels of Arizona State. Slovis and Howell each eclipsed 3,500 yards and 30 touchdown passes; Gabriel passed for 3,653 yards and 29 scores; Nix passed for 2,542 yards and accounted for 23 touchdowns; and Daniels passed for 2,943 yards while accounting for 20 scores.
UA's Scooby Wright, Ka’Deem Carey make Pac-12 team of the decade
Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News – the godfather of Pac-12 media coverage – recently named his conference team of the decade. Two Wildcats made the cut.
Linebacker Scooby Wright made Wilner’s first team. Wright had one of the greatest seasons in college football history in 2014, winning the Nagurski, Lombardi and Bednarik awards after totaling 163 tackles, 29 stops for losses (including 14 sacks) and six forced fumbles.
Wright missed most of his junior season because of injuries before turning pro. He finished his career with 269 tackles, including 42 TFLs.
The other Wildcat selected by Wilner was tailback Ka’Deem Carey, who made the second team. Carey earned consensus All-America honors in 2012 and ’13. He finished his three-year career as Arizona’s all-time leading rusher with 4,239 yards. He also ranks first in school history in all-purpose yards (5,483) and rushing touchdowns (48).
Who beat out Carey for first-team honors? Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey and Oregon’s LaMichael James.
Wilner also handed out a series of “best of” awards. The “Hill Mary” game against Cal in 2014 made the list as the fourth-best game of the decade. Wrote Wilner:
“Down 18 points when the fourth quarter began, the Wildcats rallied with one-two-three-four-FIVE touchdowns. The last score came on the final play: a 47-yard miracle from Anu Solomon to Austin Hill that became known as the ‘Hill Mary.’ (Note: This game serves as a proxy for all the other high-scoring, zero-defense, #Pac12AfterDark thrillers that dot the decade, including UCLA’s 67-63 victory over Washington State earlier this season.)”
Carey signs contract extension to continue CFL career in Calgary
Speaking of Carey, the Canyon del Oro High School product this week signed a two-year contract extension with the Calgary Stampeders of the CFL.
In his debut season last year, Carey rushed for a team-high 422 yards on 75 carries (5.6 ypc). He also caught 15 passes for 134 yards. Carey scored three touchdowns. He missed the end of the season because of an arm injury.
“Ka’Deem is a talented and experienced player who performed well for us when given the opportunity last season,” Stampeders president and general manager John Hufnagel said, per the team’s website. “I look forward to seeing him at full strength and health in training camp as he competes for a key role in our offense.”
Said Carey: “I’m very excited. This organization and this city are a perfect fit for me, and I’m so happy to be here for the next two years. I get to play in front of the best fans in the CFL, play with the best quarterback in the league and work with a great coaching staff. I’m training hard to play 21 games this coming season and give it my all for a run at the championship so that we can continue this organization’s tradition of success.”
What are Arizona’s top pro prospects up to this month?
Tate is participating in the College Gridiron Showcase in Fort Worth, Texas, this week. Although he had rollercoaster career at Arizona, it’s surprising that Tate hasn’t been invited to one of the bigger all-star events. He’s an intriguing prospect based on athletic ability alone. You can get some of Tate’s thoughts on the subject here.
Tate’s longtime backfield mate, tailback J.J. Taylor, was invited to the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl. Taylor declined the invitation to continue rehabbing a lingering ankle injury that apparently was much worse than he let on. Taylor is striving to be 100% for pro day and other workouts, which could include the NFL scouting combine.
UA cornerback Jace Whittaker is slated to participate in the East-West Shrine Bowl in St. Petersburg, Florida. That game also is scheduled for Jan. 18.
Decisions looming for two key Arizona recruiting targets
Arizona continues to try to add players to its 2020 signing class. The Wildcats remain in the mix for three-star Mesa Red Mountain offensive tackle Jake Griffin.
Griffin is scheduled to visit Oregon State and BYU later this month, he told Blair Angulo of 247Sports. He officially visited Arizona last month and might return as an unofficial visitor. BYU is considered the favorite to land Griffin, who might go on an LDS mission while in college.
Griffin is listed at 6-6, 265. He needs to add weight but displays impressive athleticism on film.
Meanwhile, another Arizona target, three-star all-purpose back Frank Brown, plans to announce his college destination next Tuesday (Jan. 14).
January 14th 💔Ain’t Too Long 🗣 pic.twitter.com/fEFztHGRei— Get Rich Or Die Tryin… (@iamFrankBrown1) January 2, 2020
Brown visited Michigan State on Dec. 13, and the Spartans are considered the favorites. He visited Arizona in June. Other teams in the running include Houston, Missouri, Texas Tech and Utah. Brown played at Sterling High School in Houston, where Kevin Sumlin and his staff have had success on the recruiting trail.