Here is the sixth part of our Arizona Wildcats football preview in collaboration with our Gannett partner, The Arizona Republic.
We write the words, and they have taken the cool photographs and put it all together in a slick presentation at azcentral.com.
Check back here and at azcentral.com every Friday as we roll out more of our preview every week, all the way into August.
This week: The tight ends.
(I included the multiple Taimi Tutogi with this group instead of the running backs. Why? Well, because Arizona doesn’t have many true tight ends and Tutogi’s inclusion makes this section a bit longer.)
For two seasons, Arizona had one of the finest tight ends in college football. Then a back injury kept Rob Gronkowski out for the entire 2009 season … and then he declared for the NFL Draft after his redshirt sophomore year.
The Wildcats have gotten very little out of the tight end position after losing the services of the do-it-all Gronkowski, who was physical in the running game and a significant threat to flatten defenders and score touchdowns (16 of them in two seasons).
By virtue of scheme alone, the tight end position doesn’t figure to be a major factor in the passing game this season, as Arizona focuses on its deep receiving corps and its four-wide attack. The challenge here is for the tight ends to help be more physical in the running game.
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Baucus was the team’s second tight end in 2010, playing behind A.J. Simmons — or playing with him in double tight end sets. Baucus ended up with three starts, making four catches for 22 yards and one touchdown, that coming against The Citadel.
Baucus has nice size, and it will be a happy story when he lines up next to his younger brother Mickey, a redshirt freshman slated to start at left tackle.
As far as pass-catching numbers, the expectations are low, although coach Mike Stoops wants Baucus and anyone else who cycles through the position to be a factor in the ground attack.
“We need to get physical with those guys,” Stoops said. “Those guys need to give us a physical presence that we lacked last year.”
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Based on his junior college career, he could help Arizona get some production from the position in the passing game. Robinson, who was a second-team NJCAA All-American from Snow College in Utah, had 28 receptions for 346 yards and four scores last season.
Arizona needed to add depth at tight end after last season, and Robinson helped in that regard by enrolling for the spring semester. He went through spring ball, although a foot injury slowed his progress, so the coaches will have to wait to fall camp to get a better gauge of how he fits in.
Robinson was listed in the spring as the backup to Jack Baucus.
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He’s a hybrid player in the Arizona offense — an H-back/fullback/tight end kind of player who has shown, if only in scrimmage situations, the ability to be used as a lone tailback.
Tutogi was one of the stars of spring 2010, when the coaches gave him ample opportunity to showcase his versatile skills. But the big spring failed to translate into the season, and coach Mike Stoops didn’t hide the fact afterward that Tutogi’s performance had been “disappointing.”
Battling some injury problems — such as a preseason ankle sprain — Tutogi caught just five passes last season and had a couple of drops.
Said Stoops: “(Tight end) Jack Baucus and Taimi Tutogi have to be better players than they were a year ago.”