Arizona Wildcats to be ‘really smart’ with Tetairoa McMillan’s return from injury

Jul 10, 2024, 10:00 PM | Updated: 10:50 pm

Wide receiver Tetairoa McMillan runs after the catch...

Wide receiver Tetairoa McMillan #4 of the Arizona Wildcats catches a 50-yard touchdown reception against the Arizona State Sun Devils during the second half of the NCAAF game at Mountain America Stadium on November 25, 2023 in Tempe, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

It hasn’t taken long for new Arizona Wildcats head coach Brent Brennan to get a pulse on how top wide-receiver option Tetairoa McMillan operates.

Turn on USA Basketball this week and you’ll get a good idea.

“T-Mac is one of those rare people that is actually fiercely competitive but is having fun during the competition,” Brennan said during a press conference at Big 12 Media Days on Wednesday. “Almost the way Steph Curry plays basketball. It looks like he’s having so much more fun than everybody else. And then as a talent and as a receiver — I’m an old receiver guy myself, not nearly as good as any of the guys I’m coaching right now — but T-Mac’s body control and his ability to finish 50-50 balls.

“I think so many games in college or the NFL come down to a 50-50 throw on a short yardage play where you can’t run it because they have too many people in the box. His ability to finish those catches and (quarterback Noah Fifita’s) ability to throw them makes T-Mac extremely rare.”

After reeling in 90 catches for 1,402 yards and 10 touchdowns on top of earning Second Team All-Pac-12 and Third Team All-American nods in the process, McMillan enters his junior year and Arizona’s first season in the Big 12 eager to raise the bar that much higher.

But before he can continue etching his name in Arizona’s record book, the wideout must first get a clean bill of health following a non-contact leg injury picked up while running routes at a spring practice.

It’s unclear what the exact plan Arizona’s athletic training staff has for McMillan ahead of training camp, though, Brennan told reporters he’s hopeful the wideout “will be a version of full-go” when that time comes.

“We don’t know enough yet to know if it’s going to be resolved or not, but we’re going to be really smart,” Brennan added. “I know you guys know I don’t like to talk about injuries, but we’re going to be really smart to make sure he’s ready to go.”

Injury or not, Fifita is expecting big things from McMillan in Year 3.

“The tape speaks for itself,” Fifita told reporters on Wednesday. “When you really break it down and see the ball skills, body control and hands, those are things you can’t really teach.

“Beyond that, just the character. You don’t see a lot of guys his caliber as humble as him. He’s a program-changer, he’s a culture-changer and that’s why you’ll see him go in the Top 5 (of the 2025 NFL Draft).”

Tetairoa McMillan’s secret weapon

Thanks to the Big 12 and Microsoft’s partnership that will bring tablets to the sidelines and in coaching booths, McMillan has yet another resource to better his game in real time.

“That’s going to help a lot,” McMillan said. “I still remember my first college football game. First drive I come off the field and I ask coach, ‘Can I see the play on the tablet?’ In high school we did that, but in college we don’t do that.

“I definitely think it’s going to help us just make adjustments during the game. Obviously, we see what’s going on during the play and on the field, but the eyes in the sky don’t lie.”

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