Depth-chart graphics in this blog from University of Arizona’s media-relations department pre-game press release
The definite starters on offense include two seniors, five juniors, one sophomore and one freshman (true freshmen Clive Georges or Samajie Grant are listed as potential starters at one wide receiver spot).
The other two undecided positions are quarterback (either senior B.J. Denker, junior Jesse Scroggins or redshirt freshman Javelle Allen) and slot receiver (either sophomore Johnny Jackson or freshman Nate Phillips).
The definite starters on defense include five seniors and five juniors.
Either a freshman (Scooby Wright) or sophomore (Keoni Bush-Loo) will start at the strong-side linebacker position. Shaquille Richardson and Derrick Rainey are seniors listed as the potential starter and reserve at right cornerback.
Combined definite starters: Seven seniors, 10 juniors, one sophomore and one freshman.
The definite second team on offense: One senior, two juniors, three sophomores and three freshmen. The definite second team on defense: One senior, one junior, three sophomores and two freshmen.
Combined definite backups: Two seniors, four juniors, six sophomores and four freshmen.
“If you want to elevate the performance of the guys, bring in competition,” Rodriguez said during Monday’s press conference. “We don’t have enough yet. We need two or three guys at every position competing for playing time.”
Because of the drastic drop of seniors and juniors in the backup spots, it’s easy to see why Rodriguez kept preseason scrimmages and physical play to a minimum. His older starters are that valuable to protect.
Arizona’s defensive players, however, rarely got to whet their appetite for tackling the offensive players.
“It’s difficult. I know the offense was glad. I was mad,” senior defensive lineman Tevin Hood said. You go full speed but you have to tone it down because you don’t want to hurt people. With no contact, you can’t really play defensive or offensive line, so that was just something we had to get used to. I think it It kept a lot more people healthy.”
The special teams will feature Phillips as the kickoff and punt returner. One memorable freshman who handled that role was Mike Thomas in 2005.
“Nate has good ball skills,” Rodriguez said. “He has good speed and he’s a confident guy when he’s back there catching kicks or punts. I’m not sure if he’s the first punt or kick returner but he’ll be out there Friday night.”
Drew Riggleman, a sophomore, is listed as the punter. The depth chart does not indicate a decisive place-kicker or kickoff specialist. Jake Smith, a senior, or sophomore Casey Skowron are listed as possibilities for each.
WILDABOUTAZCATS.net publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He also writes blogs for Lindy’s College Sports, TucsonCitizen.com and Sports Illustrated-sponsored site ZonaZealots.com.