Arizona football newcomers report to camp Tuesday morning, so get ready to see a bunch of pictures of some guys you have never seen before trying on helmets.
Coach Mike Stoops typically keeps his newcomers off limits through the first week or so of camp, so don’t expect any riveting interviews Tuesday — just those photos of newbies trying on their equipment.
That doesn’t stop us from looking ahead.
This most recent recruiting class received barely modest reviews — ranked eighth in the Pac-12 by Rivals.com, and last in the league by Scout.com (OK, so that’s a lousy review) — but there is ample opportunity for newcomers to make an immediate impact.
Later, we will have to do a list of “Top redshirts to watch” — such as WR Dan Buckner and left tackle Mickey Baucus — but for now, here are six first-year players to watch.
Arizona will hold its first practice Thursday morning.
6. LB Rob Hankins
Having a “motor” that is compared to that of Wildcats legend Tedy Bruschi makes Hankins one of the most intriguing new defenders for Arizona.
There is some question whether his production at Parish Episcopal High School in Dallas (126 tackles as a senior) will translate right away to the Pac-12. But given the Cats’ lack of depth at linebacker, though, it would be a surprise if Hankins doesn’t have some kind of backup role while helping on a variety of special teams.
5. P Kyle Dugandzic
It would be nice if he can take the adventure out of the punting game after the inconsistent senior year of Keenyn Crier. Special teams coach Jeff Hammerschmidt told us in the spring that Dugandzic doesn’t necessarily have a “wow” leg … but then the JC transfer boomed a 72-yarder in his one attempt in the spring game.
He did lead all California junior college punters last season with kicks of better than 50 yards, but the Wildcats will be happy to settle for placement and direction over pure distance after plunging to 98th nationally in net punting last season (34.1 yards per attempt).
4. LB David Lopez
Arizona coaches, needing to bolster its linebacker unit that lost four scholarship players in the offseason (including Jake Fischer to an ACL injury), bolstered the group in the summer with Lopez, a junior college transfer who was otherwise headed to Portland State.
For now, he is listed as the starter at strongside linebacker but will have to earn that spot in camp. Said coach Mike Stoops last week: “He looks good. He’s a big kid. We hope we stole one there.”
3. DE Lamar De Rego
Coach Mike Stoops says replacing the lost pass rush of three defensive ends now in the NFL is his biggest concern.
That’s where De Rego, who who had 8.5 tackles for loss at San Jose Community College last year, comes in. He seems to be the best option to provide competition for tentative starters C.J. Parish and Mohammed Usman.
2. PK Jaimie Salazar
The best position battle of fall camp will be between Salazar and two-year starter Alex Zendejas, who has to win back a lot of trust from the coaches after PAT nightmare against Arizona State. Coach Mike Stoops says the slate is clean … so may the best kicker win.
1. RB Kadeem Carey
He’s the star of the recruiting class (and speedy freshman RB Jared Baker can’t be ignored, either). But the hype has been swirling for years about Carey, who posted an epic junior season at CDO (running for 2,738 yards and 45 touchdowns) in leading the Dorados to the 4A-I state championship.
His senior year was marked by injuries — costing him the state running record and, likely, some points in the recruiting rankings — but he retains his game-breaking moves, which is exactly what Arizona needs. Senior Keola Antolin is a solid No. 1, but Carey (and Baker) could make a camp move into the backup role.