Arizona Football

2024 Arizona football season countdown: 83 days to kickoff

To get ready for the upcoming Arizona football season, All Sports Tucson offers a countdown, which will include history notes and a look ahead to the season — a good way to keep Arizona football on the mind in the summer months leading up to fall camp in early August and then kickoff against New Mexico on Aug. 31 in the start of the Brent Brennan era.



Former Arizona tight end Mark Keel has coached at the high school level in Washington the last 30 years (Keel photo)

With it being the 83rd day until kickoff between the Lobos and Wildcats, the best player to wear No. 83 for Arizona is tight end Mark Keel, who played with the Wildcats in 1981 and 1982 after transferring from Olympic College in Bremerton, Wash. One of the top junior college transfers in Arizona history, Keel became the best tight end to play at Arizona before Rob Gronkowski played for the Wildcats. Keel, the head coach at Central Kitsap (Wash.) High School, has been inducted into the Olympic College Athletics Hall of Fame. Keel caught 59 passes, six for touchdowns, in his two-year career at Arizona. His 857 receiving yards for a tight end were the most in school history until Gronkowski had 1,197 yards on 95 catches in 2007 and 2008. Keel played in a run-oriented ball-control offense under Larry Smith while Gronkowski played under a pass-happy “Air Raid” offense instituted by Mike Stoops. Keel was drafted by the New England Patriots in the ninth round in 1983, but signed with the Arizona Wranglers of the United States Football League. Keel spent three years in the USFL, injuring a knee his final season, and then moved to the NFL, where he spent three years on the Patriots’ (physically unable to perform) list. He signed with the Seattle Seahawks during the 1987 strike season. Keel played two more years in the NFL with Kansas City and went to Green Bay for two training camps before moving back to the Northwest. Keel, 62, has coached at Central Kitsap for the last 30 years as an assistant and the head coach. Going back further in time, in the WAC era, the best No. 83 was defensive end Bob Crum (who played from 1970 to 1972). He was an All-WAC selection who was third-round choice in the NFL draft.


Sam Graci-Glazer

Graci-Glazer, 6-foot-2 and 165 pounds, moved to receiver from defensive back, where he played at IMG Academy, when he came to Arizona. He is in his third year in the program as a redshirt sophomore without action on the field yet. He was a member of a 9-1 IMG Academy team that was ranked No. 7 nationally and No. 2 in Florida during his senior season. Named offensive MVP and won a national championship in 2020. He is a son of Fox Sports NFL analyst/reporter Jay Glazer. His sister Amber ran track at Arizona. Brother Joey played football at Montana and sister Cherrielee was a cheerleader at Alabama.


Athlon Sports has rated Arizona No. 23 in the nation heading into the season. Utah (No. 14) is the highest rated team in the Big 12 followed by Kansas State (No. 17), Oklahoma State (No. 19) and Kansas (No. 21). West Virginia and Iowa State are listed in the “next tier” of teams.


The publication states: “New head coach Brent Brennan inherits one of the best situations for any first-year coach. The Wildcats return one of college football’s top pass-catch combinations in quarterback Noah Fifita and receiver Tetairoa McMillan to lead an offense that averaged 34.6 points per game last season. Left tackle Jordan Morgan and receiver Jacob Cowing will be missed, however. Improvement on defense was an underrated factor in Arizona’s recent rise. This unit held teams to 21.1 points per game last year — down from 36.5 in ’22. Matching that total will be a challenge with only five starters back for new defensive coordinator Duane Akina.”

FOLLOW @JAVIERJMORALES ON TWITTER! 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, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports,, 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. He became an educator in 2016 and is presently a special education teacher at Sunnyside High School in the Sunnyside Unified School District.

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