ARIZONA FOOTBALL

Here’s the Arizona Wildcats’ depth chart for opener vs. SDSU

Sep 1, 2022, 9:03 AM | Updated: 9:35 am
Head coach Jedd Fisch of the Arizona Wildcats reacts on the sideline during a game against the Oreg...
Head coach Jedd Fisch of the Arizona Wildcats reacts on the sideline during a game against the Oregon Ducks at Autzen Stadium on September 25, 2021 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Tom Hauck/Getty Images)
(Photo by Tom Hauck/Getty Images)

The Arizona Wildcats’ Week 1 depth chart for their Saturday matchup against the Aztecs of San Diego State features a veteran-laden defense, a few high-profile freshmen on offense and two significant transfers who should help the team improve upon a one-win campaign in Jedd Fisch’s first year on the job.

Here’s the depth chart for the 2022 opener.

 

Freshmen starters

On offense, the Wildcats list Tetairoa McMillan as the starting X receiver. At 6-foot-5, 205 pounds, the Hawaii native is Arizona’s highest-ranked recruit in the history of the program. He was the No. 4 wide receiver recruit and No. 36 overall prospect in his class. He will provide a big-bodied target on the outside for a Wildcats offense that struggled to find the end zone through the air last year.

Also from Hawaii, three-star recruit Jonah Savaiinaea will start at right guard this weekend. The 335-pound interior lineman was named a True Freshman Player of the Year candidate on 247Sports.

Tight end Keyan Burnett isn’t officially listed as a starter, but he’s one of the three mentioned with an OR on the depth chart. The No. 8 overall tight end in his recruiting class, according to 247Sports, had six touchdowns and 605 yards on 34 catches his senior year of high school. He was a three-sport athlete at Servite high school, and teammates with fellow Arizona signees McMillan and QB Noah Fifita.

The lone freshman starter on defense is redshirt freshman Kolbe Cage, who is listed as the starting will linebacker on Saturday. Cage got his first taste of collegiate football in the Territorial Cup against ASU last season, but didn’t register any stats. As a high school senior, he had 63 tackles and was a Sports Illustrated All-America candidate.

Other freshmen

Fifita is in the running for second-string quarterback with redshirt junior Jordan McCloud.

Receivers A.J. Jones, Kevin Green Jr. and Jaden Clark (redshirt) make up the rest of the freshman pass-catchers. They join running backs Jonah Coleman and Rayshon Luke as the freshman skill position players who could earn immediate playing time.

Center J.T. Hand (redshirt) and right guard Leif Magnuson (redshirt) join true-freshman Savaiinaea on a young interior offensive line for the Wildcats.

Notable transfers

The roster features 50 newcomers, including nine FBS transfers. Among the most noteworthy transfers is former UTEP wide receiver Jacob Cowing. The junior played 13 games for the Miners last season, leading them in receiving yards with 1,354. He also added seven receiving touchdowns, plus one more on the ground (along with 75 rushing yards on four attempts).

The Maricopa native is one of 29 Wildcats from Arizona, which is 40.3% of the roster.

Cowing has a new quarterback throwing him passes, and the man under center for Arizona is new to Tucson as well. Sophomore transfer Jayden de Laura spent the past two seasons with the Washington State Cougars, where he popped as a sophomore. In 16 games the past two seasons, de Laura had a passing efficiency rating of 139.5 and compiled 28 touchdowns to 13 interceptions.

Returning lettermen

The Wildcats also have 41 returning lettermen this season, with 31 of them having started at least one game in their Arizona career. Offensive lineman Paiton Fears leads the offense with 24 starts, while only DL Jalen Harris (29) and DB Christian Roland-Wallace (25) have more starts on the team.

Running back Michael Wiley had a down year rushing the ball a season ago, netting just 3.3 yards per carry.

Wiley is the projected starter in Week 1, according to the Arizona depth chart. He is followed by the freshman Coleman and junior D.J. Williams, then Luke and junior Drake Anderson.

Special teams stars

Junior punter Kyle Ostendorp was an AP All-Pac-12 First Team selection last year after averaging the seventh-most yards per punt in college football (49.2). He also got named to the AP All-America Second Team, as well as All-Pac-12 First Team for the preseason this year.

Sophomore kicker Tyler Loop was the first Arizona kicker in program history to make his first 10 collegiate kicks, going 12-for-12 as the team’s PAT and short kick specialist in 2021. The Wildcats were tied for 18th in FBS with 21 field goals made a season ago.

Week 1 matchup

After a 1-11 season under first-year head coach Jedd Fisch, the Wildcats enter the season with an over/under win total at 3.5 on FanDuel Sportsbook.

Their new additions at quarterback and receiver only help their chances to eclipse that. However, their matchup in Week 1 is tough.

San Diego State went 12-2 last season. That was good enough to rank 24th on the final AP Poll of 2021. While the Aztecs enter 2022 unranked, they’re starting the season in a better spot than Arizona.

Expected starting quarterback and former Arizona commit Braxton Burmeister ranked 86th on Will Backus’ quarterback rankings for 247Sports.

One key factor for Arizona to win their season opener would be to make Burmeister uncomfortable. The Aztecs’ quarterback is at his third FBS school of his five-year collegiate career. In 29 games between Oregon and Virginia Tech, he’s completed 56% of passes for 3,020 yards, 18 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Among the returning Wildcats hoping to put pressure on Burmeister is their sack-leader from a season ago, defensive lineman Kyon Barrs.

The game, and season, kicks off at 12:30 p.m. MST at Snapdragon Stadium in San Diego.

Penguin Air

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