Wildcats Open Jedd Fisch Era Against BYU in Las Vegas
TUCSON, Ariz. — The Arizona Wildcats (0-0) kick off the 2021 season, and the head coach Jedd Fisch era, this Saturday, Sept. 4 in Las Vegas against BYU (0-0). The game is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. MST with a television broadcast on ESPN.
The Wildcats and Cougars square off at Allegiant Stadium, the 65,000-seat home of the NFL's Las Vegas Raiders.
A complete game preview is below.
ARIZONA NOTES & NUMBERS
- The Jedd Fisch era begins on Saturday as the Wildcats open the 2021 season in Las Vegas with a matchup vs. BYU in Allegiant Stadium, the home of the Las Vegas Raiders.
- Saturday's game will kick off at 7:30 p.m. MST on ESPN. Dave Flemming and Rod Gilmore will be on the call with Stormy Buonantony as the sideline reporter.
- Arizona coaches are 19-10-2 all-time in their first game as head coach.
- Arizona is 83-27-5 all-time in season openers and has faced the Cougars nine other times in the season opener. The Wildcats are 4-4-1 all-time vs. BYU in the season opener. The last time Arizona and BYU faced off in the season opener, the Cougars came away victorious with a score of 28-23 in Tucson to kick off the 2018 season.
- Head coach Jedd Fisch announced in his weekly press conference that both Gunner Cruz and Will Plummer will share the quarterback duties week one vs. BYU. Cruz, who arrived on campus for spring ball, will be making his first official appearance for Arizona while Plummer played in three games last season with one start against Colorado.
- Arizona returns 33 different players who have started at least one game for the Wildcats in their career. Donovan Laie leads the way with 29 career starts. Laie, who has started every game of his career, could become the ninth offensive lineman to have started 30 or more consecutive games since Arizona began tracking game-by-game starters in 1993.
- Head coach Jedd Fisch brought in 17 FBS transfers to Tucson, with some of them arriving for spring practice and the rest during the summer/fall. Of those 16 transfers, they combined to start 81 games at their previous schools.
11 — 11 players on the 2021 roster were on the 2018 team that last faced BYU.
17 — Head coach Jedd Fisch brought in 17 FBS transfers to Tucson, with some of them arriving for spring practice and the rest during the summer/fall. Of those 17 transfers, they combined to start 81 games at their previous schools. Linebacker Treshaun Hayward leads the way with 18 career starts.
29 — Offensive lineman Donovan Laie has started the first 29 games of his career. Only eight other offensive linemen have started 30 or more consecutive games since Arizona began tracking game-by-game starters in 1993.
721 — When Arizona takes the field vs. BYU on Saturday, it will have been 721 days since the Wildcats faced a non-conference opponent.
SOME GAME THEMES: Jedd Fisch is making his debut as Arizona's head coach … Fisch has a record of 1-1 after being named the interim head coach at UCLA for two games in 2017 … Fisch had been coaching in the NFL with the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams the previous three seasons before coming to Arizona … Arizona coaches are 19-10-2 all-time in their first game as head coach … The Wildcats are 83-27-5 all-time in season openers … Arizona is 2-1 all-time in season openers at neutral sites … The Wildcats are 3-1 all-time in the state of Nevada … When Arizona takes the field vs. BYU on Saturday, it will have been 721 days since the Wildcats faced a non-conference opponent … Arizona is looking to snap its 12-game losing streak … Jedd Fisch announced in his weekly press conference that both Gunner Cruz and Will Plummer will share the quarterback duties … Arizona welcomes back 33 players who have started at least one game for Arizona in their career … Donovan Laie could become the ninth offensive lineman to start 30-straight games since Arizona began tracking game-by-game starts in 1993 … Head coach Jedd Fisch brought in 16 FBS transfers to Tucson, with some of them arriving for spring practice and the rest during the summer/fall … Of those 16 transfers, they combined to start 81 games at their previous schools … Gunner Cruz and Will Plummer have combined to play in four games while Will Plummer has started one game … Arizona returns nine players who started all five games last season … The Wildcats return their three top tacklers from last season; Anthony Pandy, Rhedi Short and Christian Roland-Wallace … Arizona also returns their top receiver last year, Stanley Berryhill III, who caught 23 passes for 227 yards and three touchdowns in five games in 2020 … Lucas Havrisik returns to Arizona, who made six of seven field goals last year and was named Second Team Preseason All-Pac-12.
VERSUS BYU: Arizona holds a record of 12-11-1 overall vs. BYU … BYU has won the last two contests … The last time Arizona beat BYU was in Las Vegas at the 2008 Las Vegas Bowl … Arizona has faced BYU nine other times in the season opener and have a record of 4-4-1 in such games … The last time Arizona and BYU faced off in the season opener, the Cougars came away victorious with a score of 28-23 in Tucson to kick off the 2018 season … 11 players on the current roster were on the 2018 team that last faced BYU … Last time out, Khalil Tate threw for 197 yards and one touchdown, J.J. Taylor had 18 carries for 85 yards and a score and Shawn Poindexter caught four passes for 68 yards … On the defensive side, Colin Schooler had 16 tackles and one for a loss … Stanley Berryhill III caught one pass for 19 yards and Anthony Pandy had one tackle for a loss.
O CAPTAIN! MY CAPTAIN!: Much like the NFL, head coach Jedd Fisch named team captains from the offense, defense and special teams unit… two from each unit to be exact:
Arizona 2021 Team Captains
|Stanley Berryhill III (WR)||Offense|
|Josh McCauley (OL)||Offense|
|Jalen Harris (DL)||Defense|
|Anthony Pandy (LB)||Defense|
|Lucas Havrisik (K)||Special Teams|
|Thomas Reid III (WR)||Special Teams|
I AM #1: At the beginning of camp, Jedd Fisch announced he would be holding a competition for who gets to wear the No. 1 jersey for the season. The Monday of week 1, it was announced that team captains and Arizona natives Stanley Berryhill III and Jalen Harris would each don the No. 1 jersey. Berryhill III is Arizona's leading returning wide receiver while Harris registered 18 tackles and 2.5 for a loss last season.
TWO IS BETTER THAN ONE: At Jedd Fisch's first weekly press conference on Aug. 24, he announced that both Gunner Cruz and Will Plummer will see time in the first game of the season vs. BYU. Cruz arrived on campus for spring ball earlier this year while Will Plummer played in three games last season and made one start.
- Gunner Cruz - Played at Washington State for two seasons … Redshirted in 2019 and made one appearance vs. USC in 2020 … Threw his first career TD vs. USC … At Casteel High School in Queen Creek, Ariz., he was the 2018 5A San Tan Region Player of the Year and First Team All-District … Passed for 3,598 yards and 30 TDs with a 73% completion pct. as a senior.
- Will Plummer - Saw action vs. UCLA, Colorado and ASU last season … Made one start vs. Colorado … Passed for 388 yards and rushed for 95 yards last season … Was 17-35 for 151 yards and 49 yards on the ground in his first career game vs. UCLA … Amassed over 6,800 passing yards and 58 touchdowns at Gilbert High School … Also ran for 1,016 yards and 13 touchdowns.
FRESH FACES: Of Arizona's 45 newcomers, 17 of them are transfers from other FBS schools. Of the 17 transfers, eight of them started at least one game at their previous school and combine for 81 starts. Treshaun Hayward, the 2019 MAC Defensive Player of the Year, leads the group with 18 starts.
Transfers from FBS Schools
|Player (Pos.)||Previous School (career starts)|
|Drake Anderson (RB)||Northwestern (4)|
|Gunner Cruz (QB)||Washington State|
|Mo Diallo (DL)||Central Michigan (8)|
|Davis DiVall (OL)||Baylor|
|Jason Harris (LB)||Colorado|
|Treshaun Hayward (LB)||Western Michigan (18)|
|Kenny Hebert (LB)||Vanderbilt (7)|
|Rashie Hodge Jr. (LB)||New Mexico State (11)|
|Alex Lines (TE)||UNLV|
|Gunner Maldonado (S)||Northwestern|
|Clay Markoff (RB)||Washington State|
|Jordan McCloud (QB)||South Florida (17)|
|Malik Reed (LB)||Wisconsin|
|Jerry Roberts (LB)||Bowling Green (15)|
|Isaiah Rutherford (CB)||Notre Dame|
|Leevel Tatum III (DL)||Fresno State (1)|
|Ma'jon Wright (WR)||Middle Tennessee State|
THE PANDY MAN CAN: Senior linebacker Anthony Pandy is back for his fifth year as a Wildcat and will be looking to assume a large leadership role under first year head coach Jedd Fisch. Pandy, who was one of Arizona's representatives at Pac-12 Media Day, started all five games last season and has 13 career starts at linebacker. During the 2020 season, Pandy led the Wildcats in both tackles (30) and interceptions (2). Both of his interceptions came in the same game vs. Colorado. Pandy enters his fifth year with 130 tackles, 11.5 for a loss, 4.0 sacks and three interceptions.
McCAULEY NAMED TO RIMINGTON TROPHY WATCH LIST: For the third time in his career, senior Josh McCauley was been named to Rimington Trophy Watchlist, which recognizes the top center in the country. The former walk-on has started all 27 games he has played in in the last three seasons and has anchored the Wildcats offensive line from the center position. Last season, he helped pave the way for big rushing games by Wildcat backs that included 268 yards vs. Colorado and 158 yards vs. USC. The Mesa, Ariz. native helped the Wildcats average 174 yards on the ground in 2019 and started all 12 games at center in 2018 when Arizona had the Pac-12's top rushing unit (202.4 ypg). Additionally, he was a key piece of the 2018 line that allowed the third-fewest sacks in the Pac-12.
HAVRISIK EARNS PRESEASON PAC-12 HONORS: Kicker Lucas Havrisik was named second-team Preseason All-Pac-12 heading into the season. Last year, Havrisik made six of seven field goals in five games, including a 51 yarder in the first game of the season. He made six-straight to end the season, with three coming vs. USC. The Riverside, Calif. native, known for his big leg, kicked 17 of his 21 kickoffs went for touchbacks. Havrisik finished the year ranked 16th in the nation with an 85.7% field goal percentage. The senior has a career long of 57 yards, which came during his freshman season in 2017.
STATE 48: The Wildcats roster features 34 players that call the state of Arizona home, including five players who stayed home in Tucson to continue their football careers. Arizona's 34 in-state players make up over 29% of the total roster. Among the notable Arizona natives are freshman safety Jaydin Young, sophomore running back Drake Anderson, redshirt freshman quarterback Gunner Cruz, redshirt sophomore wide receiver Jamarye Joiner, freshman quarterback Will Plummer, freshman running back Stevie Rocker Jr., junior linebacker Rashie Hodge Jr., redshirt junior defensive lineman Jalen Harris, redshirt senior offensive lineman Josh McCauley and sophomore offensive lineman Jordan Morgan.
Arizona Players from Arizona
|3 Jaydin Young||Peoria, Ariz.|
|6 Jason Harris||Gilbert, Ariz.|
|8 Drake Anderson||Chandler, Ariz.|
|9 Gunner Cruz||Gilbert, Ariz.|
|9 Gunner Maldonado||Chandler, Ariz.|
|10 Jamarye Joiner||Tucson, Ariz.|
|13 Luke Ashworth||Phoenix, Ariz.|
|15 Will Plummer||Gilbert, Ariz.|
|17 Regen Terry||Florence, Ariz.|
|17 Jaden White||Scottsdale, Ariz.|
|19 Kyle Ostendorp||Phoenix, Ariz.|
|20 Treydan Stukes||Litchfield Park, Ariz.|
|23 Stevie Rocker Jr.||Tucson, Ariz.|
|26 Jaden Clark||Phoenix, Ariz.|
|30 Anthony Gonzales||Phoenix, Ariz.|
|31 Trey Cartledge||Scottsdale, Ariz.|
|32 Jacob Meeker-Hackett||Tucson, Ariz.|
|35 Rashie Hodge Jr.||Phoenix, Ariz.|
|40 Ammon Allen||Mesa, Ariz.|
|46 Victor Zayas||Gilbert, Ariz.|
|47 Rourke Freeburg||Scottsdale, Ariz.|
|49 Jalen Harris||Gilbert, Ariz.|
|50 Josh McCauley||Mesa, Ariz.|
|51 Chandler Kelly||Chandler, Ariz.|
|52 Aaron Blackwell||Peoria, Ariz.|
|53 Malik Reed||Chandler, Ariz.|
|67 David Watson||Tucson, Ariz.|
|71 Jaxon McBride||Queen Creek, Ariz.|
|77 Jordan Morgan||Marana, Ariz.|
|79 Davis DiVall||Scottsdale, Ariz.|
|80 Connor Hutchings||Phoenix, Ariz.|
|84 Tristen D'Angelo||Anthem, Ariz.|
|86 Stanley Berryhill III||Tucson, Ariz.|
|88 Alex Lines||Gilbert, Ariz.|
ALL-DAY TRE: Linebacker Treshaun Hayward comes to Arizona with already boasting a very successful career. The 2019 MAC Defensive Player of the Year played 39 games for Western Michigan and totaled 229 tackles, 16 TFLs and 5.5 sacks. Hayward was flat out dominant in 2019 as he was named an All-American by Sporting News and Phil Steele. The Ypsilanti, Mich. native finished the season with a conference-high 142 tackles and added in 10.5 TFLs. His 142 tackles was the third-most in the country and was one of five players to post 130+ tackles and 10+ TFLs.
WILEY NAMED A PRESEASON DOAK WALKER AWARD CANDIDATE: Running back Michael Wiley was named a preseason candidate for the 2021 Doak Walker Award back in late July, which recognizes the nations' top college running back. Last season, Wiley emerged as a part of Arizona's rushing attack as he finished the season with 222 yards on just 31 carries while scoring three touchdowns. The Houston, Texas native doubled his rushing yards from his freshman season with the exact same amount of carries. Wiley had a career game against Colorado as he gained 122 yards on just seven carries to go with five receptions. He set career highs in rushing yards (122), longest rush (45) and catches (5) that night.
FIVE NAMED TO THE SENIOR BOWL WATCHLIST: Back in mid-August, Mo Diallo, Jalen Harris, Treshaun Hayward, Donovan Laie and Trevon Mason were named to the 2022 Reese's Senior Bowl Watchlist. This group, as well as the rest of Arizona's seniors, will look to become the first Wildcats since Nick Foles and Juron Criner to play in the Senior Bowl.
NO LONGER WALK-ONS: On the evening of Aug. 18, Arizona natives Viper Rourke Freeburg, CB Treydan Stukes and S Jaydin Young were all awarded scholarships during a team meeting. Last season, Freeburg started all five games for the Wildcats at outside linebacker and ranked fifth on the team in tackles and second in TFL. Stukes and Young came on strong during fall camp, making the decision easy by head coach Jedd Fisch to award them scholarships.
BRINGING BACK THE TIGHT END: It's no secret that Jedd Fisch intends to use the tight end more often than the Wildcats have done so in the past few years. This year's tight end room, which is led by coach Jordan Paopao, consists of Connor Hutchings, Stacey Marshall, Roberto Miranda, Colby Powers, Zach Williams and Bryce Wolma. Back in 2017, Wolma caught 28 passes for 241 yards and two touchdowns, but only has 10 catches for 131 yards and one score since then. Williams has caught three career passes for 34 yards. Look for this group of tight ends to make a big impact on Arizona's pro style offense this season.
A HALL OF FAME PEDIGREE: Safety Isaiah Taylor enters his freshman season at Arizona with something in his back pocket that you don't see very often… a pro football hall of famer for a father. Taylor, who is the son of 15-year pro and 2017 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee Jason Taylor, won a state championship and was named All-State in the 7A division while playing at St. Thomas Aquinas. He holds his school record for the longest touchdown with a 103-yard interception return for a touchdown. Taylor impressed in the final scrimmage of fall camp as picked off a pass and made a few key plays throughout the night.
DR. BLITZ MAKES HIS WAY TO TUCSON: Of all the newcomers to the Arizona Football program, defensive coordinator Don Brown is near the top of the list when it comes to instant impact. Brown, long known for his aggressive and blitz-heavy attacks, has earned the nickname "Dr. Blitz". Widely considered one of the top defensive coaches in college football, Brown joined Arizona after five successful seasons leading the Michigan Wolverines defense. Brown, who brings nearly 45 years of coaching experience to Tucson, was a five-time nominee and a 2016 finalist for the Broyles Award that is annually awarded to the nation's top assistant coach. Over the last decade, 29 defensive players who played under Brown have been selected in the NFL Draft. After orchestrating a miraculous turnaround of the Boston College defense over the course of three seasons, Brown was tabbed as the American Football Coaches Association Assistant Coach of the Year in 2015.
#ITSPERSONAL: The No. 1 message Jedd Fisch has been pushing since he arrived on campus in December 2020 is 'Its Personal.' It's not just a catchy slogan that gets printed on shirts and that you see on social media, it is how the Arizona Football program is approaching every aspect of the 2021 season. From how the team plays on the field to how the coaches work on the recruiting trail… Its Personal.
THE COMPLETE STUDENT-ATHLETE: Of the 117 players currently on Arizona's roster, 26 have already graduated with a bachelor's degree. Below is a list of the student-athletes who have already earned their degree.
|Stanley Berryhill III||Literacy Learning & Leadership|
|JB Brown||Literacy Learning & Leadership|
|Edgar Burrola||Economy & Industry|
|Brian Casteel||Literacy Learning & Leadership|
|Mo Diallo||Community Development|
|Josh Donovan||Sports & Society|
|Paiton Fears||Science, Technology, Health & Society|
|Rourke Freeburg||Business Management|
|Jalen Harris||Criminal Justice Studies|
|Malik Hausman||Social Behavioral & Human Understanding|
|Lucas Havrisik||Literacy Learning & Leadership|
|Treshaun Hayward||Criminal Justice Studies|
|Rashie Hodge||Individualized Studies|
|Clay Markoff||Business Administration|
|Tre Mason||Social Behavioral & Human Understanding|
|Josh McCauley||Criminal Justice Studies|
|Jacob Meeker-Hackett||Animal Sciences|
|Anthony Pandy||Social Behavioral & Human Understanding|
|Thomas Reid III||Psychology|
|Jerry Roberts||Education & Human Development|
|Rhedi Short||General Studies - Economy & Industry|
|Leevel Tatum III||Agricultural Business|
|Bryce Wolma||Business Management|
WE EDUCATE WEDNESDAY: Every Wednesday, Jedd Fisch brings in a guest speaker to talk to the team either in person or virtually about a myriad of subjects during We Educate Wednesday. Below is a list of a few speakers that have led We Educate Wednesday discussions.
- Dr. Richard Carmona – former United States Surgeon General
- Steve Kerr – Wildcat alum and Golden State Warriors Head Coach
- Jim Caldwell – Former NFL Head Coach
- Sean McVay – Los Angeles Rams Head Coach
- Pete Carroll – Super Bowl Champion and Seattle Seahawks Head Coach
WILDCATS IN THE NFL: As of the conclusion of preseason action, the Wildcats are once again well represented in the National Football League with nine former letterwinners active across the league. One of Arizona's most prestigious alums, tight end Rob Gronkowski, returned from retirement in 2020 to rejoin his longtime quarterback Tom Brady with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Over 10 seasons in New England and Tampa Bay, Gronkowski has hauled in 8,484 yards and 86 touchdowns. Quarterback Nick Foles is in his 10th NFL season after rewriting the Wildcats record books during his time in Tucson. The most recent Wildcats to make the transition to the NFL are running back Gary Brightwell (New York Giants) and defensive end Roy Lopez (Houton Texans). For a complete list of former Wildcats in the NFL, see the comprehensive chart below.
Current Wildcats on NFL Rosters
|Nick Foles||QB||Chicago Bears|
|Rob Gronkowski||TE||Tampa Bay Buccaneers|
|Jace Whittaker||CB||Arizona Cardinals|
|Gary Brightwell||RB||New York Giants|
|Nick Folk||K||New England Patriots|
|J.J. Taylor||RB||New England Patriots|
|Roy Lopez||DL||Houston Texans|
|Dane Cruikshank||DB||Tennessee Titans|
|Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles||LB||San Francisco 49ers|