Arizona Wildcats 2018 countdown to kickoff: 64 days

We are now only 64 days until the Arizona Wildcats kick off their 2018 season under new coach Kevin Sumlin.

When Arizona hosts BYU on Sept. 1, it will mark the 40th anniversary since the Wildcats joined the Pac-12 (went from the Pac-8 to the Pac-10 then) and also the 20th anniversary of the 1998 team with the best record in school history, 12-1, and the 25th anniversary of the 1993 team that went 10-2 with a win over Miami in the Fiesta Bowl.

To get ready for the upcoming season, All Sports Tucson offers another countdown, which will include memories from former Wildcats, history notes and a look ahead to the season. Think of it as a way to keep Arizona football on the mind in the summer months leading up to fall camp in early August and then kickoff against the Cougars marking the start of the Sumlin Era.

To catch up on the countdown click on this: Arizona Wildcats 2018 countdown to kickoff.

A look back

— With it being the 64th day until kickoff, the best player to wear No. 64 for Arizona? That would be the late Warner Smith, the offensive lineman standout and team captain who completed his career in 1994. Smith, native of San Manuel, Ariz., passed away in January after battling Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS) since 2014. He is survived by his wife Becky and daughter Carlee.

Smith was a four-year starter and senior team captain for the Wildcats during the Desert Swarm era. After beginning his career on the defensive side of the ball, Smith became a two-time All-Pac-10 honoree as an offensive guard. During his career, Arizona compiled a 28-18-1 overall record, appeared in three bowl games and produced the 1994 Fiesta Bowl shutout over 10th-ranked Miami to cap the program’s first 10-win season.

Another No. 64 worth mentioning — Jim Donarski, a three-time All-Border Conference guard from 1950 to 1952. He was also a second-team All-American in 1952.

A look ahead

Wearing No. 64 for the Wildcats this season is center Nathan Eldridge, a fourth-year junior who was voted honorable mention All-Pac-12 by the league’s coaches last year. He was named a second-team All-Pac-12 performer by the Associated Press. A preseason watch list candidate for the Rimington Trophy, Eldridge started all 12 games at center for the Pac-12’s top rushing offense, which ranked third nationally with 324.4 yards per game during the regular season. Arizona allowed fewest sacks of any Pac-12 team in regular season.

Nathan Eldridge is one of the top returning offensive lineman in the Pac-12 (Arizona Athletics photo)

They tweeted it

HeroSports.com has selected Eldridge as the best No. 64 in all of college football, citing a quote about Eldridge by former offensive line coach Jim Michalczik, who is now with Oregon State:

“You’re kind of like an artist. A great violinist, when the symphony is done, is going to go work on little things on their own. He’s kind of bought into that. It’s good to see the maturity to buy into that.”


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