Greg Byrne's Wildcat Wednesday
Outlook Part 3 - Receivers
By: Arizona Athletics
Release: April 05, 2007
Photo Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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Get Open ?- Get the Ball


Coaches: Darrell Wyatt, Dana Dimel


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Clearly the most critical position on Arizona's offense in spring ball was receivers. “If you’re going to throw the ball maybe 50 times a game, you’re going to need receivers to make plays” was how head coach Mike Stoops put it.


In one spring scrimmage, 14 different guys at seven different positions caught 39 passes. It appears that catching the ball is catching on.


Junior Mike Thomas already has a track record that shows he’ll be doing so. With 102 career receptions he’s clearly been a talented focal point. Offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes’ model could get him the ball at a strikingly more frequent rate.


But there’s keen competition among all four receiver spots, tight end, H-back and running back ?- all positions that run routes.  One layman’s view of the spread is that the first guy to get open gets the ball thrown his way. That makes for keen competition both in practice and on the field.


Two reasons UA feels good about its development in the passing game is new passing game coordinator Darrell Wyatt and tight ends coach Dana Dimel. Wyatt spent the last 10 years working the throwing game at Minnesota (Vikings), Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Kansas, while former head coach Dimel returns for his second year ?- including half the action last year as running game coordinator and play-caller for UA when Stoops tried something to get the offense rolling. They’re eager to work with coordinator Dykes.


Senior Anthony Johnson, juniors B.J. Dennard and Bobby McCoy, sophomore Terrell Turner and redshirt freshmen Terrell Reese and Delashaun Dean all have the skills to help UA’s corps spread the field. Tight end veterans include junior Travis Bell and senior Brandyn McCall, with redshirt freshman A.J. Simmons ready to contend. The H-back spot is solid with sophomore Earl Mitchell, junior Brandon Lopez and redshirt freshman Brooks Reed.


Incoming freshman tight end Rob Gronkowski is said to be physically ready and able to be a serious pass-catching option this fall.  


Too, there's no question that spring practice has shown the running backs -- who caught eight balls in one scrimmage -- will be catching passes, lots of them.


Mike Thomas Anthony Johson B.J. Dennard
Coach Dana Dimel Terrell Turner Brandyn McCall


Dykes prefers to assign positions to the receivers and keep them there, so he and Wyatt have spread the corps out to fill various formation roles ?- such as  “small tight end” like Anthony Johnson and a “small H-Back” like B.J. Dennard, guys who can start a series along with two other receivers and a big tight end, if so opted. Or, other combinations can work a formation for a more power-style play. There are lots of options with four or five guys as targets on any given play.


The Cats can use a leader type catching the ball. 2005 senior Syndric Steptoe had as much value in the locker room and sideline as his all-league, all-purpose ability on the field. Identifying one of these players to walk out for the coin toss would be a huge boost to UA’s adoption of the spread.


 “We need someone to step up,” says Mike Stoops.


Wyatt adds another caveat, that receivers will do a much better job of down-field blocking in 2007 to help spring some big plays. “I guarantee it,” he notes.


 Top Receivers

Mike Thomas, 5-10, 178, Jr., 2L

Anthony Johnson, 6-2, 215, Sr., 3L

Terrell Turner, 6-2, 175, So., 1L

B.J. Dennard, 5-11, 194, Jr.-RS, 2L

Terrell Reese, 6-4, 201, Fr-RS

Bobby McCoy, 6-1, 185, Jr., 1L

Delashaun Dean, 6-4, 198, Fr-RS

Fall Recruits: David Roberts, 6-0, 175; Devin Veal, 5-11, 170; Bug Wright, 5-10, 170.

Tight Ends

Travis Bell, 6-6, 245, Jr., 2L

Brandyn McCall, 6-5, 245, Sr., 1L

A.J. Simmons, 6-3, 255, Fr-RS

Matt Richards, 6-5, 256, Sr., 2L

Fall Recruit: Rob Gronkowski


Earl Mitchell, 6-2, 250, So., 1L

Brandon Lopez, 6-1, 224, Jr., 2L

Brooks Reed, 6-3, 240, Fr-RS


Position Notes... Thomas’ career receptions total puts him in shape to reach the Arizona Top 10 chart in the first game. He’s 12th with 102 He has to displace Andrae Thurman (105) at No. 10.  CFL career leader Terry Vaughn had 109 at Arizona for the 9th spot... Based on this offense, Johnson also is within reach at 71 career receptions... UA’s most recent high-volume receivers were Bobby Wade (93 in 2002) and Dennis Northcutt (88 in 1999). Wade had the benefit of John Mackovic’s pro-style passing game and Northcutt was on UA’s best-ever offense, a 471 yards per game package that rated 3rd nationally under Dick Tomey... UA receivers and partisans hope Dykes and Wyatt pull it off. Red Raiders’ receivers caught 39 touchdown passes last year. The Arizona record is 27 in 1997... Mitchell was the top H-back in 2006, with seven starts... McCall started five games at tight end, Johnson was the No. 2-3 receiver with five starts, Turner with two as a true freshman...

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