Perhaps the most reliable (not to mention deepest) position on the Arizona Wildcats' football roster is wide receiver. This should come as no surprise considering the type of offense UA tends to run.
What is impressive is that the Wildcats keep finding ways to churn out new talent at the position year after year and add to their depth. The depth is necessary because of how often Arizona passes the ball and how many different wide receivers are usually involved on a game-to-game basis.
There is no question that Juron Criner is the leader of the pack. Many speculated Criner could have put his name into the NFL Draft, but he instead decided against that and returned to Arizona for his senior campaign.
Criner has had monster seasons each of the last two years and it has propelled him into the elite class of wideouts in college football. Over that timeframe, Criner has combined for 128 receptions, 1825 yards and 20 touchdowns. You will be hard-pressed to find a better wideout in the Pac-12 than Criner and 2011 should be another huge season for the future NFL receiver.
Criner will also have a little extra support in the form of former Texas receiver Dan Buckner. The wideout sat out 2010 after an off the field problem led him to transfer from the Longhorns, but is ready to become one of the team's top targets on offense.
Buckner had a huge sophomore season in 2009 for Texas and looks to make an even bigger splash in the Wildcats' offense. At 6-foot-5, 210 pounds, Buckner provides quarterback Nick Foles with another huge target to work with and, unlike the other newcomers, Buckner has proved himself at a high level of college football already.
Possession receivers David Roberts and David Douglas also return for their senior campaigns. Both players have become two of Foles' most reliable targets and know the offense very well. Both Roberts and Douglas are extremely good route runners that should provide two good pairs of hands in the slot.
The pair has combined for 169 receptions over the past two years as well as 10 touchdown catches. Expect each to play an important role within the offense in 2011.
While no specific player is being assigned to assume the role Bug Wright has left behind, Richard Morrison is the player closest to his skill-set. Morrison was impressive towards the end of the 2010 season and hopes to carry the momentum he created at the end of the campaign into 2011.
Morrison finished last season with a mere 19 catches for 188 yards, but he recorded the majority of those statistics over the final three games he saw action in. He hopes that his play at the end of last season is a sign of things to come in the upcoming campaign.
Terrence Miller emerged as one of Foles' favorite targets a season ago. Miller has the size of a tight end, but his hands and route running are what makes him a solid receiver. At 6-foot-4, 225-pounds, Miller's size should allow him to use his physical tools to excel at wide receiver.
Miller concluded 2010 with 29 catches and 345 yards but, like Morrison, he recorded the vast majority of those stats over the final month of the season. He seemed to be on the same page with Foles by the end of the season, so he could be in line for a breakout year.
Austin Hill spent his first year on campus as a redshirt, so he hasn't been able to prove anything quite yet. If his performance during spring ball is any indicator of what we will see in the future, Hill has a very promising career ahead of him. It will take a lot for him to work his way up the depth chart this season, but given how he stood out during the spring, anything is certainly possible.
Tyler Slavin was Hill's high school teammate and redshirted with him in 2010. Like Hill, Slavin has displayed flashes in practice of what he can do when given a chance, but will likely have a hard climb up the depth chart if he wants to see the field this season. It wouldn't be a surprise considering there were rumors prior to the start of last season that Slavin would see the field as a true freshman, but that never came to fruition.
Speedy Garic Wharton looks to make an impact either as a receiver or as a return man. There isn't much doubt that Wharton is impact receiver in this offense at some point down the road, but when is to be determined. At the very minimum, expect Wharton to make an impact in the return game this season and if he shows enough in fall camp to render playing time, he could work his way on to the field sooner rather than later.
Two receivers - Patrick Onwuasor and David Richards – arrive from the 2011 recruiting class, but given the talent and depth already on the roster, it's doubtful that either player is able to leapfrog enough players to earn substantial playing time as true freshmen. Both have plenty of potential, but it will take some time for them to find their way into the rotation.
The wide receivers are the Wildcats' strength without question. If Arizona wants any shot at a conference title, this unit will have to perform up to its capability. That shouldn't be too much of a concern though as the receiver position continues to prove to be UA's strength year after year in the spread offense.
Evaluating the Roster: WR
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