Arizona Football

2024 Arizona football season countdown: 55 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.

CLICK HERE TO ACCESS PREVIOUS DAYS IN THE COUNTDOWN

A LOOK BACK — NO. 55 BRONKO SMILAND

Arizona Hall of Famer Bronko Smiland (known as Bronko Smilanich while at Arizona)

With it being the 55th day until kickoff between the Lobos and Wildcats, the best player to wear No. 55 for Arizona is running back Bronko Smiland (known as Bronko Smilanich during his Arizona days). He played for Arizona from 1936-38 along with All-American backfield mate Walter “Hoss” Nielsen. Smiland was a two-time All-Border Conference tailback (in 1936 and 1937). He also earned Honorable Mention Little All-America in 1938 and played in the College All-Star Game in 1939. Gained 1,608 yards rushing and scored 102 points in his career. Named second team on the half-decade (1949) All-Time Arizona football team by the Arizona Daily Star. In 1955 he was selected by the same newspaper as one of 10 greatest backs in UA history. Starred on 1937 team that finished 8-2. Born in Chisholm, Minn., he played professionally in 1939 with the Cleveland Rams and later became a paint industry executive in California. In 1966, he founded Smiland Paint Co. In 1977, concerned that environmental restrictions might doom the paint industry, Smiland founded the Ad Hoc Committee of Small California Paint Manufacturers to contest certain measures. Because of that work, he was honored by the Southern California Paint and Coatings Assn. His company, which has grew from 15 employees to more than 200, earned a reputation as a fortress of advocacy for the “little guys” in the paint manufacturing and distribution market. He passed away at age 85 in 2001. Smiland Paint Co. was sold in 2004.

Bronko Smiland (last name Smilanich while at Arizona) is in the school’s Hall of Fame.

NO. 55 IN 2024 — OL JT HAND AND LB LEVITICUS SU’A

JT Hand

Hand, 6-foot-4 and 310 pounds, is a fourth-year junior who made two appearances on the offensive line last season. He played in five games in 2022 and three in 2021. From Orange County (Calif.) Mission Viejo High School, he joined the early of high school in the Spring of 2021. His father Bryan played offensive line for the Wildcats from 1992-96. He was a member of Jedd Fisch’s first recruiting class at Arizona.

Leviticus Su’a

Su’a, 6-foot-2 and 235 pounds, redshirted last season as a freshman. He was named Trinity League MVP at Mater Dei High School in 2022. He played in 35 games over four seasons on the varsity team at Mater Dei, making 134 total tackles, averaging 3.8 tackles per game, and posting 22.5 tackles for loss. He became the second consecutive Trinity League MVP to sign with the Arizona Wildcats (WR Tetairoa McMillan earned the honor in 2022). A four-star linebacker with offers from Stanford, Cal, Colorado, FIU, Louisville, Miami, Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska, Oregon, Oregon State, Penn State, Texas, UCLA, and Washington. He was recruited to Arizona by former defensive coordinator Johnny Nansen. He announced his decision to join Arizona at the 2023 Polynesian Bowl in Honolulu.

NOTE

Arizona team reporter Mackenzie Hamilton and the video staff put together an informative piece of what goes into the food the football players eat daily at the facility. A lot of planning goes into the meals and snacks provided, not only to keep the players fit but also happy. For example, I didn’t know rice krispies are such a popular snack choice. From a nutritional-value viewpoint for the players, Arizona has that well covered.

THEY SAID IT

“Three biggest questions facing Arizona head coach Brent Brennan ahead of Big 12 media days Tuesday and Wednesday this week in Las Vegas:

1) Will Tetairoa McMillan Be Healthy for Fall Camp?

Standout pass catcher Tetairoa McMillan missed the Arizona spring game after undergoing what was described as a “little procedure.” With little to no information regarding the severity of the injury, fans and analysts alike will be clamoring for updates ahead of fall camp.

2) How different is new offensive coordinator Dino Babers’s offensive scheme?

The Wildcats’ offense experienced unheralded production last season, finishing eighth nationally in passing offense with 308.3 yards through the air per game. Freshman quarterback Noah Fifita led the way with 2,869 yards passing and 25 TDs, but that was under the versatile offensive scheme under former head coach Jedd Fisch and offensive coordinator Brennan Carroll.

3) Who will be Jacob Manu’s counterpart at linebacker?

Jacob Manu was the Pac-12’s last leader in tackles before the conference essentially dissolved following the 2023 season, accumulating 116 tackles, 9.5 for a loss, 6.5 sacks, and one interception. Manu proved to be a leader from the middle of the Wildcats’ 4-2-5 defense, but the position next to him experienced a lot of turnover during the season.”

Keff Ciardello of the College Football Network

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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. 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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