The Arizona Wildcats return many of their stars from a 2014 season that saw them win the Pac-12 South and earn them a trip to the Fiesta Bowl. But there have been some departures from last season at key positions. The following are players who I believe are poised for big seasons whether it be because of a jump up on the depth chart, a change in their role or injuries from last year to this year.
Davonte Neal: Yes the former Chaparral High standout is already somewhat of a household name from his play in high school to his short stint with Notre Dame before coming to the Wildcats program. But why he will be well known this season will be because of different reasons this time around. Neal went to Rich Rodriguez and the coaching staff last spring and more or less volunteered to take a crack at defensive back for the team knowing the lack of depth at that position and the incredible depth they have at receiver. Fast forward to today and the word from people close to the program is that Neal had one of the best fall camps of anyone on the roster. They think that he could ultimately be one of their best players on defense this season and his future in the game could be what we have already seen on special teams and the potential he has at the defensive back spot.
Jamar Allah: With Grandon and Tevis gone, now steps in Jamar Allah who Rich Rodriguez told me during an interview for Sports360AZ’s Brad Cesmat Show when I filled in one day over the summer, is one of the first guys he thinks of when he thinks break out players on his 2015 roster. Allah is a fantastic athlete and in addition to being a stand out football player going back to his high school days at North Canyon, he was also a stud on the track. Allah along with William Parks are the anchors and the leadership of this Wildcats defense and they expect him to make plays all over the field.
Freddie Tagaloa: It has been well documented that one of Arizona’s biggest concerns from what they lost from 2014 are the offensive tackle positions as they have lost two four-year starters. But they have a mammoth of a human being stepping in for Anu Solomon’s blind side in the 6-8, 316 pound Tagaloa. Though he doesn’t have a ton of game experience, his knowledge of the schemes and the program as a redshirt junior has him more than ready to be a key piece of this offensive line. Running backs Nick Wilson and Jared Baker are what make this offense go with their ability to run both between and outside the tackles and with big Tagaloa setting the edge, there should be no problem for this Wildcats offensive line to adjust to losing three starters.
Nate Phillips: After being a very pleasant and unexpected surprise in 2013 as a freshman, wide receiver Nate Phillips had to miss time early in the year in 2014 because of injury. He ultimately played in nine of the games, started in five of them but was not the same player out there as he was trying to catch up coming off of being sidelined. Phillips is back to full strength in 2015 and has even put on a considerable amount of weight and muscle. With the amount of depth the Wildcats have at receiver, it is like a carousel with who is in the game at specific times. But Phillips is slated to start for the team in the slot and if he gets back to the form was in as a freshman, he could be one of the most reliable options that Solomon has on the outside.
DeAndre Miller: Scooby Wright is the well known linebacker for obvious reasons but the linebacker who will be lining up on the weak side who is poised to breakout is junior DeAndre Miller. He was hoping last year was going to be his big opportunity but went down with a season ending injury just a few weeks into the season. Miller is another player who had great reviews from fall camp and at 6-3, 230 pounds, he has the build and athleticism to make a big impact. In this 3-3-5 stack defense that Coach Casteel operates, the linebackers are needed to make plays all over the field. Miller has the abilities to make plays in this scheme whether it’s dropping in coverage or rushing the quarterback.