Arizona Football

2024 Arizona football season countdown: 82 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.



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With it being the 82nd day until kickoff between the Lobos and Wildcats, the best player to wear No. 82 for Arizona is wide receiver Juron Criner, who played with the Wildcats from 2008-11. Criner, the top target of Nick Foles, is a school-record holder with 32 career receiving touchdowns. He shares the school season record with 11 receiving touchdowns, accomplished in 2010 and 2011. Criner’s best season came as an junior in 2010, when he caught 82 passes for 1,233 yards although he played through many bouts with injuries. That year, he earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors and was a second-team All-American in 2010, as selected by and Sports Illustrated. Criner missed summer workouts in advance of his senior season because of undisclosed medical and personal reasons and still had 75 catches for 956 yards despite missing some time because of an appendectomy early in the season and a nagging knee injury. He ranks fourth at Arizon in career receptions (209) and receiving yards (2,859). The Oakland Raiders drafted Criner in the fifth round of the 2012 NFL draft. He was with the Raiders for two seasons before being part of the New York Giants’ practice squad in 2014 and 2015. He then went on to the CFL and played for Ottawa and Edmonton from 2016-2018. He caught seven passes for 177 yards in Ottawa’s two playoff games en route to winning the 104th Grey Cup in 2016. Criner, 34, now trains in Raleigh, N.C. Two others who wore No. 82 at Arizona of note: tight end Ron Beyer, the program’s first All-Pac-10 player and receiver Jay Dobyns, an inspirational figure who became a federal agent and recently a high school football coach locally.


Dorian Thomas

Thomas, who redshirted last season as a freshman, is 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds. He hails from Kent, Wash. Stayed at Arizona despite recruited by Washington out of high school by former tight ends coach Jordan Paopao, who left with Jedd Fisch to coach the Huskies following last season. He was a three-star prospect (247Sports) out of high school. He was rated the No. 12 tight end in Washington and No. 51 tight end overall. Held offers from Washington, Oregon State, Arizona State, Florida Atlantic, Nevada and Washington State.


Through all the distractions the NIL and transfer portal can bring a program, Arizona’s players are getting the job done in the classroom with the highest team GPA in history during the spring semester — 3.042.

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“I really think that they have something special going on here. Even though a switch in the coaching staff, nothing changes with the players and just the brotherhood and how everyone loves each other. At the same time, you can have a lot of fun. Also people are holding each other accountable. We definitely have integrity here. I’m just ready to win. I’m so excited to win.” — Arizona freshman receiver Brandon Phelps of ALA-Gilbert North.

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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