The biggest news out of Arizona football’s fall camp was that there was no big news, especially with regard to the status of sophomore receiver Davonte’ Neal.
The Wildcats did not suffer any major injuries or have any noteworthy players leave the program, and the UA did not name a starting quarterback. Meanwhile, Arizona continues to wait on whether Neal can play this season.
Neal played at the University of Notre Dame as a freshman and was ranked by ESPN as the best athlete in the nation in the 2012 recruiting class.
In the spring Neal transferred to the UA, and said he hopes to play this season. Normally, transfers must sit out a season, but Neal filed a hardship wavier to try and be eligible this season.
“It is a little frustrating,” head coach Rich Rodriguez said. “I’m sure it’s frustrating for you all, too. Davonte’ has a great attitude. School starts Monday, games start Friday; it sure would be nice to know.”
Neal chose Arizona partly to be closer to his girlfriend as well as his daughter Baylee. He prepped at Chaparral High School in Scottsdale and won Arizona Gatorade Player of the Year twice.
“I’m just sitting here waiting, like you guys,” Neal said.
According to NCAA.org, the hardship waiver is for student-athletes who are “compelled to transfer because of financial hardship or an injury or illness to the student-athlete or a member of their family.”
Neal said he is anxious to hear about his status but isn’t obsessing about it.
“I’m not going to worry about it too much,” Neal said. “I’m just going to go out and do my part for this team.”
Neal could greatly help the Arizona offense, which has to replace Matt Scott at quarterback and receivers Dan Buckner, both of whom are in the NFL, and junior Austin Hill, who tore his ACL during spring football.
“It’s not on our timetable,” Rodriguez said. “Our compliance has done everything and anything possible. Now, we’re just waiting on the NCAA. I don’t know what the holdup is, but, hopefully, we’ll find out soon.”
Rodriguez said because of how the UA splits up repetitions during practice, Neal doesn’t miss out as much as a “typical offense.”
“He’s been getting a few reps but not a lot,” Rodriguez said. “We’ve just been going on the assumption [that he won’t play] until they tell us he’s eligible. He’ll get some reps but not with the ones and twos. If he is eligible, he’ll be jumping up right away and get some reps as soon as we find out.”
Neal returned 21 punts for the Fighting Irish as they made it to the BCS National Championship last season.
“It’s a little different. You get a different atmosphere with different colleges, but as far as I can see, it’s the same competitive atmosphere that Notre Dame had,” Neal said.
Neal is just one of the high-profile transfers in the Rodriguez era. In the fall junior quarterback Jesse Scroggins, who started his career at USC, decided to go to the UA.
Then, during the summer, the Wildcats added quarterback Connor Brewer and receiver Cayleb Jones from Texas. Brewer was a teammate of Neal’s in high school and Jones is from Austin, TX, where UT is located.
ESPNU ranked Brewer as the seventh-best quarterback coming out of high school, and Sporting News ranked Jones as the third-best overall prospect in 2012.
The two former Longhorns will sit out this season due to transfer rules, but Scroggins is eligible because he transferred from a junior college.
Rodriguez credited the appeal of the UA and the new Lowell-Stevens Football Facility for why the blue chip transfers picked Arizona.
“It’s a great place to go to school. We have this brand new facility, which is a big boost in recruiting and development,” Rodriguez said. “So, I mean, it’s all good right now.”
Arizona announced the football team will wear copper helmets for its season opener Friday against NAU.
The Wildcats wore blue lids during training camp and blue jerseys, blue pants and copper helmets for their annual “Beanie Bowl” – their dress rehearsal a week before the NAU game.
Though popular among fans, the Wildcats have had mixed success in copper. The football team lost 38-35 to No. 18 Oregon State when it wore copper helmets.
Then, the softball team beat No. 18 UCLA 8-6 in 10 innings on a walk-off hit in copper helmets but then lost 13-3 the next night.
The baseball team lost 23-1 to Washington when it wore copper helmets.
•This story was courtesy of the Arizona Daily Wildcat.