If you had pondered the question, “Which Arizona Wildcats freshman is going to make the biggest impact?” a month ago, you might have mentioned one of the linebackers.
Or one of several defensive backs, the kind of players who can always help on special teams, too.
Or Kyle Kelley, a high school pass-rushing demon on a team in high demand for a pass-rushing demon.
Or quarterback Javelle Allen.
Or a Griffey.
The one area in which Arizona seemingly needed no help from newcomers was the offensive line. The starters returned intact from last season, key backups were still around, and a trio of redshirt freshmen — Lene Maiava, Jacob Arzouman and Faitele Faafoi — was there to push the veterans.
You can see where this is going, especially if you were paying attention to the week 1 depth chart released Monday and heard what coach Rich Rodriguez said at his weekly press conference:
True freshman offensive lineman Cayman Bundage will play, and could start at left guard.
The starting part seems unlikely; the playing part does not.
“He’s fundamentally sound for a freshman,” said co-offensive coordinator Rod Smith. “He’s what we’re looking for in terms of work ethic, explosion. All those things you look for in a lineman, he’s got it.”
Including that intangible quality that is ever-present on the coaching staff’s mind — a “hard edge.”
“The biggest thing Cayman Bundage has going for him is hard edge,” Rodriguez said.
“He may have it better than any lineman that we have, and he is a true freshman. He is not a real tall guy so he has a natural good leverage base when he comes off the ball. Cayman loves to play and he loves to be physical. He will play as a true freshman, and I’m pretty excited about his future.”
Bundage, from Douglass High School in Oklahoma City, is light for a major college guard (6-2, 265) but didn’t seem shocked by his early move up the depth chart and the chance to play in his first college game.
“I’m not too surprised because I have been here all summer working out with my teammates,” he said. “Coming in, I already knew what the standard was. We were working hard all summer. …
“Every day in practice, we try to practice like we play. From day one, just full speed. When I first came in, I was worried about how the tempo was going to be. I knew it was high. I got in here and just went hard.”
Looking a couple of seasons down the road, Arizona appears to be in good shape on the offensive line. Sophomore tackles Mickey Baucus and Fabbians Ebbele could end up being four-year starters. Maiava pushed for the starting job at right tackle and is in the rotation. Faafoi is listed as the second-string right guard. Bundage is behind Chris Putton at right guard.
Arzouman was in the playing rotation, too, Rodriguez said, until suffering a torn ACL early in camp.
Arizona has three other scholarship true freshman linemen who figure to redshirt — Beau Boyster, Zach Hemmila and T.D. Gross, a high school tight end who has the frame (6-6, 271) to develop into a physically imposing tackle.
For now, Bundage is the one to watch.
“We’re extremely excited about him,” Smith said. “We think he’s going to be a really good one.”
Bundage is the only true freshman on offense listed on the depth chart. Different story on defense, where four are listed as second-stringers — strongside linebacker Keoni Bush-Loo, middle linebacker/outside linebacker C.J. Dozier, “Bandit” safety Wayne Capers and free safety Jamar Allah.