Greg Byrne's Wildcat Wednesday
Football Outlook - Receivers, Tight Ends
By: Arizona Athletics
Release: April 07, 2006
Photo Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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2006 Football - Catching the Ball

If Arizona licks its offensive chops over anything in 2006, throwing and catching the ball whets the football appetite in a big way.

Surely the potential of sophomore quarterback Willie Tuitama is a key factor. Yet a handful of top threats on the other end completes the prospect that the Wildcats will be able to move the ball through the air.

Another sophomore sensation to be, Mike Thomas, made his mark in 2005, earning Freshman All-America

Tight ends coach Dana Dimel

honors after a 52-catch season gave him Arizona marks for freshmen receivers. He wasted little time in establishing himself as a player, snagging seven receptions for 92 yards and a score in his debut in the season opener. Later, in a complete team effort at Oregon State, he and Tuitama put on a little two-man sideshow, connecting together on four bombs for 162 yards. Thomas played his final game in 2005 as a mere decoy, wearing a cast at Arizona State.

His season made him the first Arizona offensive player to earn Pacific-10 Conference player of the year honors, garnering a co-Freshman Offensive Player of the Year citation.

That chemistry, and similar magic between Willie and everyone in the passing patterns, is expected to put receivers coach Charlie Williams and tight ends coach Dana Dimel and their charges in the middle of things in 2006.

Senior Syndric Steptoe returns as one of the team's primary all-purpose threats, and despite missing the OSU game with an injury still put up quality numbers, catching 37 balls for 493 yards. Junior Anthony Johnson wasn't far back with 32 grabs for 419 yards, and tight end Brad Wood checked in with the second-highest total for that position ever at Arizona, snagging 27 balls for 304 yards. And Wood was knocked from the action early in the season finale.

Steptoe earned honorable mention All-Pac-10 honors for the second consecutive season and should be poised for a chance at higher commendation this year.

Junior B.J. Dennard has been a versatile speedster who's played cornerback, special teams and receiver, and coach Mike Stoops says his development in 2006 should complement the established skills of Thomas, Steptoe and Johnson. "We need to get him more involved," Stoops says of the athletic Dennard, who had seven catches a year ago.

Sophomore Bobby McCoy saw some action in a pair of games late in the year as a redshirt freshman and will offer more depth.

Sophomore tight end Travis Bell caught four balls, and served notice that his basketball-type athleticism and big body will make him a quality target. He and mid-year (2005) juco transfer Brandyn McCall should push hard for rotation action in the corps. McCall was hurt early and redshited 2005 but brings a bigger frame to the mix. Junior Ryan Kilpatrick had one catch in two starts before he missed the final four games of the year with injury and he, too, factors as a contender for duty. He and most of the tight ends played on kicking units as well, such as reserve tight end Matt Richards.

Beyond catching the ball, improved depth at tight end will help UA's rushing attack. "Travis Bell really came in and gave us a lift, we get Brandyn McCalle back healthy... we have a chance to have some prototypical types who can help us run the ball better," Stoops says.

One recruit of the class of 2005, Adam Grant, arrived as a tight end and in a short year has developed into a contender at 6-foot-6, 260, for a serious future at left tackle. But, his pass catching ability hasn't gone away and he could be used as Brad Brittain was a year ago, as an eligible receiver in short-yardage jumbo formations using three tackles and two tight ends

All of that points at what coaches feel will be outstanding depth. And UA coaches went out in the recruiting period and brought in a trio of receivers and a pair of tight ends to further bolster the growth of Arizona's passing game. Wide receivers Delashaun Dean, Terrell Reese and Terrell Turner have big-play capabilities that will be tested early. Tight ends Cody Anderson and A.J. Simmons also offer solid prospects, although the catch-up at the position might not be as easy as for the perimeter guys.

The Wildcat running backs accounted for 46 receptions last year, the bulk of those by departed backs Gilbert

Harris (22) and Mike Bell (18). This year, expect coaches to again put guys on the field that can catch the ball out of the backfield, whether I-backs like Chris Henry, Xavier Smith and Terry Longbons, or fullback Brandon Lopez. Some feel incoming freshman Brooks Reed, who might be tried at linebacker, has pass-catching promise at a motion-back position.

Under Stoops and offensive coordinator Mike Canales, Arizona passed 45 percent of the time in 2004 and 49 percent of the time in 2005. Those seasons with an experienced near-1,000-yard running back in uniform. This year the experience will be more on the outside in Thomas, Steptoe, Johnson and Wood..  Canales likes a balanced attack as much as any coordinator, but there's little question the pieces of the puzzle favor some more wide-open goods.

.The Receiving Corps


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

9        Anthony Johnson, 6-2, 205, Jr.* 2L

82      Robert Long, 6-2, 205, Jr.* SQ+

89      Bobby McCoy, 6-1, 182, So.* SQ

37      Eric Sheehan, 6-1, 202, Sr.* SQ+

1        Syndric Steptoe, 5-9, 182, Sr. 3L

10      Michael Thomas, 5-8, 173, So. 1L

Tight Ends

29      Aaron Anderson, 6-2, 207, Jr.* SQ+

86      Travis Bell, 6-6, 235, So.* 1L

81      Ryan Kilpatrick, 6-3, 252, Jr.* 1L

87      Brandyn McCall, 6-4, 245, Jr.* RS

92      Matthew Richards, 6-4, 256, Jr.* 1L+


17      Brad Wood ,6-2, 228, Sr. 2L

88      Adam Grant, 6-6, 258, Fr.* RS

Fall Freshmen Newcomers:

Cody Anderson    TE, 6-6, 250, Apache Junction, Ariz. (Apache Junction)

Delashaun Dean WR, 6-4, 190, Fairfield, Calif. (Fairfield)

Terrell Reese       WR, 6-4, 195, Pflugerville, Texas (Hendrickson)

 A.J. Simmons      TE, 6-3, 255, Oakland, Calif. (Bishop O’Dowd)

Terrell Turner       WR, 6-2, 170, Garland, Texas (Lakeview Centennial)

(+ non-scholarship players)

Receivables... The coaching staff gained a valuable asset when Dana Dimel joined to coach tight ends earlier this year. He's a former head coach at Houston and Wyoming and a solid proponent of moving the ball. His affiliation gives the staff considerable strategic input as well as accomplished game-day management skills. He's been a line coach, running backs coach and offensive coordinator, plus the head man... Brad Wood missed much of the contact and formation work in spring while rehabilitating his knee, but will be back in August at full strength. Others banged up last year -- Brandyn McCall and Ryan Kilpatrick -- were full go and making strides in April... Matt Richards, a walk-on who's found ways to get on the travel squad as a special teams player, tight end or defensive end in recent years, is firmly at tight end for 2006... B.J. Dennard, a all-purpose athlete who could play any of a number of positions, showed his promise at receiver most notably in the '05 season finale, with three receptions. Look for his presence on the field... Walk-on Eric Sheehan enters his fourth year as a scout team receiver. He played in four games at the end of 2004. He, Robert Long and Aaron Anderson have put in some time helping the defensive squad get better... Senior receiver Ryan Eidson, a three-year letterman, decided to intern in the athletics marketing department and will forego his final year... Senior Syndric Steptoe's confidence assures him of a spot in the leadership cadre for the Cats in 2006. He told reporters this week of looking back at his freshman photos and seeing a skinny, glazed-eyed player  -- unlike today's chiseled look and steady gaze...

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