TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Here are five returning players I'm looking forward to watching for the Arizona Wildcats when Fall Football Camp begins on Wednesday.
#72 Freddie Tagaloa-Offensive Tackle
I don't think there's any question who Anu Solomon's blindside is going to be. Tagaloa comes to UA with seven starts in 23 games over two seasons with the California Golden Bears.
He's huge at 6'8, 316 pounds. He's as impressive a physical specimen as the Wildcats have had on the offensive line during Rich Rodriguez's tenure at University and Park.
During spring camp, Rodriguez said of Tagaloa, "He's the guy you want to get off the bus first when you go on the road."
Now it's time to see him play.
Well maybe six players to watch.
Is Rich Rodriguez really going to utilize a tight end in his offense this season? That's the $1 million question.
The Wildcats have not had an effective tight end threat since Rodriguez got to town. He has taken big wide receivers like Terrence Miller and Austin Hill and used them in hybrid tight end roles. You might say Kern fits that pattern as he is a former quarterback.
But Wood is an actual recruited tight end and after a freshman season that saw him start on offense and then switch to defensive end, he's back on the offensive side of the ball and may be ready to make an impact for Arizona down the seam.
In the spring game Kern, Wood and Matt Morin combined to catch ten passes for 70 yards and a touchdown, leading one to wonder if the tight end threat is back for the Wildcats for the first time since Rob Gronkowski left campus.
There is nothing I like better in the game of a football than a safety who can bring punishment on skill players coming over the middle.
Magliore looks the part of a dominant DB who can make a physical impact in both the run and pass game.
The intrigue comes in that he's only been playing the position for a short period of time. Magliore is a former quarterback at Appalachian State who moved to the defense side of the ball after transferring to Arizona Western.
Lord knows the Wildcats need all the physical players they can get on defense. Magliore, a redshirt-junior, surely may fit the bill.
Isn't Neal a player you always want to watch?
He was on this list last season coming off a transfer year as he competed at the wide receiver position. But it was clear early on that receiving might be a challenge for Neal. Running routes and catching clearly were not the best utilization of his talents. By mid-season it was apparent to me that Neal was miscast as a wide receiver.
Davonte is a player who thrived in high school with the ball in his hands off the snap primarily as a running back or quarterback.
So now he starts over as a defensive back.
The question? Can he cover? He's got the athleticism. Does he have the acumen?
Well make it seven players.
The Wildcats are in dire need of talent that can wreck havoc on the defensive front. There has not been a dominant defensive tackle in this program since I got to Tucson seven years ago.
Earl Mitchell might be the best. Not dominant at UA but a guy who's progressed to make a pretty decent living in the NFL.
Griffin comes from a winning pedigree at Seattle's Bellevue High School. Like Anu Solomon he won four state championships as a prep and had 12 sacks as a senior.
He weighs just over 300 pounds while Williams comes in at 315. He arrived in Tucson this spring after grey-shirting last season due to a leg injury he suffered during his senior season at Fresno (CA) Central.
Although the Wildcats raised their sack numbers last season from 24-to-38, many of those came from the linebackers and defensive backs. Only eight of the 38 came from defensive linemen.
Creating a push up front is the first step to a better defense for Arizona and Griffin and Williams on the inside may be two players who can start that turn around.