Arizona Wildcats 2018 countdown to kickoff: 21 days

We have reached 21 days — or three weeks from today — until the Arizona Wildcats kick off their 2018 campaign under new coach Kevin Sumlin. The season begins when Arizona hosts BYU on Sept. 1 at Arizona Stadium.

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.

The season marks some substantial anniversaries. It is the 40th anniversary since the Wildcats left the WAC to join 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 catch up on the countdown — which included in-depth analysis and reader polls on The Great Debate of which team was better — 1993 or 1998 — click on this: Arizona Wildcats 2018 countdown to kickoff.

Top 25 developments in Pac-10/12 era

Over the last part of the countdown we will rank the top 25 developments of Arizona’s Pac-10/12 existence that started in 1978 when it arrived with ASU from the WAC. The ranking will include player highlights, team accomplishments, coaching moves and other off-field developments. If a player is involved, the ranking includes happenings during the course of that athlete’s time at Arizona.

The ranking up to now:

No. 25: Darryll Lewis’ 1990 season

No. 24: Chris McAlister’s career

No. 23: Mike Stoops’ coaching tenure

No. 22: Rob Waldrop’s career

No. 21

Scooby Wright III’s 2014 season

Despite being lightly recruited, “Two-Star” Scooby Wright (as he calls himself on his Twitter handle) earned immediate playing time as a true freshman at Arizona in 2013, starting 12 of 13 games.

That led to one of the most fantastic individual seasons in Arizona history. In 2014, he was a finalist for numerous awards, including the Walter Camp Award. He claimed the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, Rotary Lombardi Award, Jack Lambert Award, Chuck Bednarik Award and also was named the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, becoming the first sophomore to ever win the conference award.

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Wright also earned first-team All-Pac-12 honors. He had the highest finish of any defensive player in the 2014 Heisman Trophy voting, finishing ninth on the ballot. He became a unanimous All-American, one of only six players in Arizona history to achieve that honor.

He had a phenomenal 163 tackles in 2014, with 29 going for lost yardage, 14 of them sacks. He also forced six fumbles and recovered one fumble.

Wearing No. 21 now …

Two third-year sophomore players share that number — running back J.J. Taylor and safety Isaiah Hayes.

Taylor figures to be one of Arizona’s key players on offense. He was granted medical clearance to keep his freshman status last year after playing only four games in 2016 before breaking his ankle. He was named Pac-12 Co-Offensive Freshman of the Year last season, sharing the honor with Stanford lineman Walker Little. He was second on the team and top among running backs with 828 rushing yards in the regular season with seven touchdowns, including five rushing and two receiving.

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Hayes played in 11 games and made seven starts after earning the starting free safety role just a few games into his true freshman season of 2016 before missing all of last season with a shoulder injury. He finished sixth on the team with 38 total tackles two years ago.

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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.

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