10 Arizona Wildcats that Will Make an Impact in 2010
Spring ball has come to an end in Tucson, giving Mike Stoops and his coaching staff a chance to reflect on their personnel and decide who will get repetitions this fall.
The spring game on Apr. 10 was the first chance for many Wildcats to see some of the players that will be making big plays.
The offense kept their play calling fairly simple and vanilla, but that didn't stop some players from making some big-time plays.
Juron Criner, as expected, was the star of the offense, making two spectacular touchdown catches. If his production carries over into next season, he may be a candidate to enter the NFL draft a year early.
The defense had quite a few players leave, and subsequently has those holes to fill before play begins next season. Fan expectations were fairly low, but the defense pulled off some great plays, including three interceptions, to start the fans talking about progress.
Ricky Elmore sacked Nick Foles on the first play from scrimmage and set the tone for the day. Elmore was simply better than whichever lineman was trying to block him, and his production should be enough to garner him All Pac-10 considerations this year.
The best part about spring football is the chance to see the players that fans might not have heard of, or seen play before. The Wildcats have a great crop of players arriving in Tucson this fall that could possibly impact the team, but there are players in Tucson now who have caught the attention of fans.
Here's a list of 10 players whose contributions were noticed this spring, and whose play should translate to playing time this fall.
10. Mike Turner—Cornerback
To say that Mike Turner's career in Tucson has been tumultuous would be an understatement.
Highly touted as an incoming freshman, Turner eventually redshirted after being considered to play as a true freshman. The following season, the Arizona coaching staff made the decision to switch Turner to wide receiver under the assumption that he would receive more playing time at that position.
Prior to the 2008 season, Turner was suspended for undisclosed reasons. He was moved back to the cornerback position prior to the 2009 season. His production, however, wasn't enough to receive playing time outside of the special teams.
Now, Mike Turner is a redshirt senior and near the top of the secondary depth chart for the 2010 season. Turner's sporadic play in the past had many fans wondering if he would contribute at all during his Wildcat career, but his play this spring could possibly earn him some serious playing time, and not just on special teams.
Turner still needs to work on his man-to-man coverage in the secondary, but his ability to read the quarterback and cover the zone was probably the best amongst all the cornerbacks. Turner's day was highlighted by an interception that he returned for a touchdown.
Turner will be a great backup to Trevin Wade and may even compete for the starting job opposite of Wade.
9. RJ Young—Linebacker
RJ Young is the latest of Desoto, Texas alumni to attend the University of Arizona, following Mike Thomas and Donald Horton. After redshirting in 2008, Young played backup and special teams in 2009.
The Wildcats have been scrambling the last couple of years to fill the position of linebacker, with many of the players coming from junior college. RJ Young is one of the few high school players the coaches have brought in at the position during the last couple of years, giving Young a great opportunity to develop in the system.
Young had a very good spring and got the nod to start at the weakside position for the spring game. Young was great at putting pressure on the quarterback and his tackling ability was one of the best amongst the linebackers.
Young's run-stopping ability could be the thing that ultimately gives him the starting job during the season, and at the very least he will be consistently competing with Jake Fischer for playing time.
8. Jonathan Hollins—Defensive Tackle
Jonathan Hollins transferred to Arizona in 2009 from College of the Canyons in Southern California, and many fans thought he would receive immediate playing time. The coaches decided to redshirt Hollins, however, and he spent the 2009 season learning the defense from the sidelines.
The decision to redshirt Hollins looks to be a great move by the coaching staff. Hollins took advantage of his redshirt year to improve his strength and conditioning. He looks bigger and more athletic than when he first arrived on campus last year.
Losing Earl Mitchell and Donald Horton in the offseason gave all the defensive tackles on the depth chart a chance to compete for starting jobs this spring, and Hollins threw his hat furthest into the ring.
Hollins still has some work to do on his conditioning to be ready to play every down, but he is miles ahead of where he was a year ago. He gets a great jump off the line and really disrupts the offensive line's ability to get a good push off the snap.
Jonathan Hollins should be at the top of the depth chart at defensive tackle for the next two years.
7. Eric Bender-Ramsay—Offensive Lineman
Eric Bender-Ramsay was a late addition to Arizona's 2009 recruiting class, so not many people knew too much about the young man. Bender-Ramsay redshirted the 2009 season and his services were relegated to the scout team.
His play on scout teams, however, eventually earned him scout team Offensive Player of the Year honors and the chance to compete for playing time in 2010.
Eric Bender-Ramsay is a great asset to the Arizona Wildcat offensive line, which is greatly lacking depth this year, especially if a player goes down with an injury.
A new, fresh crop of offensive linemen are arriving to Tucson this summer, but when they get there, they will be competing with Eric for playing time.
Bender-Ramsay was used at the guard spot and at the right tackle spot at the spring game, hinting that the coaches are preparing to use him on the line wherever they might need him.
The problem the coaching staff might run into is trying to get Eric off the field once he gets his chance. Bender-Ramsay's motor is always running and his strength is leaps and bounds over the other backup lineman.
Injuries or no injuries, look for Eric Bender-Ramsay to see the field in 2010.
6. Gino Crump—Wide Receiver
Gino Crump is another journeyman who has found himself a home at the University of Arizona. Crump attended Glendale Community College in 2007 before transferring to West Virgina in 2008 where he redshirted.
The departure of Rich Rodriguez convinced Gino Crump that his future in college was back in the desert he had left behind and transferred to the University of Arizona and made the team as a walk-on in 2009.
After sitting out his NCAA required one year, Crump is now a junior and looking to contribute at the outside wide receiver position.
The depth chart at wide receiver is deep for the Wildcats in 2010, but Crump's size and leaping ability should give him a chance to earn some looks, especially if he can catch the ball over the middle.
Crump's hands were on display during the spring game, and he turned all of his catches in to gains. The defense did not really have an answer for Crump and it often took multiple defenders to bring him down.
Crump's story and ability to make big plays could eventually make him a fan favorite at Arizona, and he'll be looking to start his production this fall.
5. Adam Hall—Safety
Adam Hall is already widely known in Tucson, having attended Palo Verde High School and making the decision to attend college close to home at the UofA.
Adam Hall could have played on either side of the ball, but was relegated to the defense before fall camp in 2009. Adam Hall redshirted the first couple of games of the season, but his defensive savvy and skill set were too good to keep off the field and he ended the season playing backup at safety and on special teams.
Adam Hall's spring was one of the more productive amongst defensive players. Many fans were left wondering who would replace Cam Nelson in the secondary and thought that this position would be one to watch this spring.
Adam Hall can flat out play. His ability to push up on the line gives the Wildcats a quick, athletic safety who can drop back into coverage, or burst through the line to stop the run.
Hall looked more athletic and looked like he was having more fun than the other players at safety, including possible starter Robert Golden.
Hall and Golden should be battling for playing time this fall, and once highly touted freshman Marquis Flowers gets to campus, this position battle will be epic!
4. Jack Baucus—Tight End
When tight end Rob Gronkowski started making big-time plays from the time he was a freshman, the Arizona coaching staff knew that they had discovered the formula for successful Pac-10 tight ends.
When Rob Gronkowski got hurt in 2009, the lack of production from the tight end position and red zone threat was blatantly felt throughout the season. And, when Rob Gronkowski decided to jump to the NFL he left the fans questioning who would replace his production.
Enter Jack Baucus. Baucus redshirted the 2009 season despite a lack of depth at the tight end spot and he definitely took advantage. Baucus's body has filled out and he looks long and tall and like a formidable matchup against linebackers and secondary alike.
Baucus is expected to play backup to AJ Simmons and see most of his playing time in a new offensive set. Baucus's blocking ability, however, has greatly improved and his speed is better than Simmons's.
During the spring game, Baucus got a chance to put his pass-catching ability on display. On one pass in particular, Baucus made a great leaping catch over the middle of the field and linebacker Paul Vassallo, reminding many 'Cats fans of The Gronk and leaving all 'Cats fans drooling for more.
Baucus's pass-catching ability should have him seeing the end zone multiple times next season.
3. Daniel Jenkins—Tailback
Daniels Jenkins was a great addition to the 2009 recruiting class for Mike Stoops and is one of the highest rated tailbacks to choose Arizona in the Stoops era.
Jenkins found himself at the bottom of a stacked tailback depth chart upon his arrival, and despite great scout team production, and injuries to Nic Grigsby, Keola Antolin, and Greg Nwoko, Jenkins redshirted the 2009 season.
The tailbacks continue to be an injury-prone squad, however, and Jenkins has taken advantage of his repetitions this spring and looked to factor into the rotation during the spring game.
Nic Grigsby, however, took his first hand-off for around 40 yards, completely bowled over Robert Golden, and, in true Grigsby fashion, slid to the ground with what looked like a hamstring injury.
Jenkins took advantage of the injury and split the rest of the tailbacks repetitions with Keola Antolin.
Jenkins's speed, ability to catch out of the backfield, and field vision are his best assets, and although he didn't have any big-time plays during the game, you could tell there was something special about him.
Jenkins will start off fall camp at either the 3 or 4 spot on the depth chart, but the history of injuries at the tailback position will more than likely give Jenkins a chance to see the field in 2010.
If he does get a chance to show the Pac-10 his stuff, fans will be begging for more.
2. Marcus Benjamin—Cornerback
Marcus Benjamin started his collegiate football career at Arizona Western College in Yuma. He eventually earned second team NJCAA All-American honors and joined the Wildcats as a mid-year transfer before the 2009 season.
The cornerback positions had been locked up prior to Benjamin's arrival, however, and he played backup for most of his first year in 2009.
Trevin Wade went down with an injury during the USC game, however, and Marcus Benjamin came off the bench and gave the Wildcats a solid defensive effort in a close, important game.
His big game momentum carried into the offseason and he started taking first team reps with the defense this spring.
Many fans were questioning the depth and talent at cornerback for next year, but Benjamin and Mike Turner answered a lot of those questions during the spring game.
Benjamin's tackling ability and man-to-man coverage skills give him a special ability to make exciting plays in the defensive backfield, and despite allowing a touchdown catch to Juron Criner, Marcus Benjamin did a great job locking up his man off the line of scrimmage.
Fans can expect for the position battle between Benjamin and Turner to continue into fall camp, but Benjamin will more than likely get the nod to start when it's all said and done, and that's a good thing.
1. Taimi Tutogi—H-Back
Taimi Tutogi was one of the few true freshmen that saw the field for the Wildcats in 2009. Tutogi was brought in to backup H-Back Chris Gronkowski and it became quickly apparent that he was one of the gems of the 2009 recruiting class.
Tutogi had his "Coming Out" party against Wahington State for homecoming. Injuries had left the Wildcat backfield depleted and Coach Stoops elected to play Tutogi at tailback instead of removing Daniel Jenkins's redshirt.
Tutogi took 11 carries for 50 yards and a touchdown and amazed fans with his tough runs out of the back field and the difficulty defenders had in bringing him down.
The offseason was good to Tutogi, who now sits at a bone crunching 260 lbs.
Tutogi was one of the featured players during the spring game, catching balls out of the backfield and even getting repetitions at tailback. Once again, Tutogi amazed fans, rumbling through, over, and around defenders.
On one play in particular, Tutogi was stopped by a defender about three yards short of the first down marker, but carried the defender and two other defenders who piled on for an additional five or six yards.
Tutogi gives the coaching staff a versatile offensive weapon that they can use in almost any formation. Tutogi will be the starter at H-back this year, but don't be surprised if you see him playing well at other positions too. His physicality is just too good to not utilize in multiple ways.
Mark it down now: Tutogi will be Arizona's best red zone threat for the 2010 season.