Arizona Wildcats 2016 Preview

Get your complete scouting report for BYU’s season opening game against the Arizona Wildcats.

It’s a new era for BYU Football under first-time head coach Kalani Sitake. Sitake will lead the Cougars to University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale Saturday night to face the Pac-12’s Arizona Wildcats in a neutral-site tilt.

The Cougars and Wildcats have played periodically throughout the years as the two teams were once former conference-mates in the WAC until 1978 when the Wildcats made the move to the Pac-10.

The head coaches of both programs are quite familiar with one another as Sitake was previously the defensive coordinator for the University of Utah who played Arizona annually in the Pac-12. Sitake-led defenses faced potent offenses led by Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez who is known for his uptempo spread offenses. Rodriguez has bested Sitake in all four games (three with Utah, one with Oregon State) that their teams have faced while scoring an average of nearly 39 ppg.

Rodriguez led teams are an impressive 11-3 in season openers during his career, and in his tenure with Arizona, his teams are 12-0 in regular season non-conference games.

The Cougars return a talented defense with plenty of experience to draw from the 2015 campaign, but are changing their defensive philosophy from a 3-4 system to a 4-3 system and may see some growing pains in the season opener against Arizona.

Both teams have potent offenses which are headed by proven starters with big play potential. With this in mind, it’s possible that fans may be in for a ‘Pac-12 After Dark’ shootout on Saturday night in Glendale.

Arizona 2015 Record: 7-6

vs UTSA 42-32 W

@ Nevada 44-20 W

vs Northern Arizona 77-13 W

vs #9 UCLA 30-56 L

@ #18 Stanford 17-55 L

vs Oregon St 44-7 W

@ Colorado 38-31 W

vs Washington State 42-45 L

@ Washington 3-49 L

@ USC 30-38 L

vs #10 Utah 37-30 W

@ Arizona State 37-52 L

vs New Mexico 45-37 W

Kalani Sitake vs. Rich Rodriguez

Rich Rodriguez:

Season: 15th (5th at Arizona)

Record: 108-68 (33-20)

Neutral: 4-6 (2-2)

Bye Week: 18-12 (6-3)

Season Openers: 11-3 (4-0)

vs. Kalani Sitake teams: 4-0

Kalani Sitake:

Season: 1st

Record: N/A

Neutral: N/A

vs P5: N/A

Bye Week: N/A

Season Openers: N/A

vs. Rich Rodriguez: 0-4

BYU vs Arizona

All-Time: 9-12-1 (Arizona leads)

Last 10 years: 1-2 (Arizona leads)

      06: Arizona – 16-3

      07: BYU – 20-7

      08: Arizona – 31-21

Arizona depth chart


QB: Anu Solomon OR Brandon Dawkins

RB: Nick Wilson OR Orlando Bradford

LT: Layth Friekh/Cody Creason

LG: Freddie Tagaloa/Christian Boettcher

C: Nathan Eldridge/Levi Walton

RG: Jacob Alsadeck/Christian Boettcher

RT: Gerhard de Beer/Alex Kosinki

WR: Trey Griffey/Cedric Peterson

WR: Samajie Grant/Shawn Poindexter

Slot: Nate Phillips/Cam Denson

Slot: Shun Brown/Tyrell Johnson

TE: Josh Kern/Trevor Wood


End: Justin Belknap/Jack Banda

Nose: Parker Zellers/Aiulua Fanene

Tackle: Sani Fuimaono/Luca Bruno

Stud: DeAndre’ Miller/John Kenny

Mike: Cody Ippolito/Michael Barton

Will: Paul Magloire Jr./Jake Matthews

Spur: Tellas Jones/Anthony Mariscal

Bandit: Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles/Chacho Ulloa

BC: Dane Cruikshank/Jace Whittaker

FC: DaVonte’ Neal/Devin Holiday

FS: Jarvis McCall Jr./Isaiah Hayes


Punter: Josh Pollack OR Matt Aragon

Kicker: Josh Pollack

Kick Off: Edgar Gastellum

LS: Nick Reinhardt/Donald Reiter

Holder: Matt Morin/Zach Werlinger

PR: Nate Phillips/JJ Taylor

KR: Tyrell Johnson/JJ Taylor


Arizona is a gun-slinging, fast-flying, up-tempo offense. They will run a spread system with a lot of 10 personnel (one RB, zero TE), but may throw in some sets with 20 personnel or 11 personnel. Think BYU 2012-2015 under Robert Anae. The Wildcats will run their offense out of the gun with the back split out to the side or even in a pistol set. BYU will have to try to keep this offense off the field to control the game so the defense can compete into the fourth quarter.

The Wildcats enter the season with a gridlocked QB battle between returning two-year starter Anu Solomon (Jr) and underclassman Brandon Dawkins (So). Solomon led the Wildcats to a #12 ranking and the Fiesta Bowl in 2014 in which they fell to Boise State 38-30 in a classic bowl game. In 2015, Solomon battled some injuries which effected his play and he was relieved by Jerrard Randall – who has since left – and Dawkins. In 2015, Solomon threw for 2667 yds completing 62.1% of passes and 20 TDs to 5 INTs. In his brief appearances, Dawkins threw for 334 yds for 5 TDs and 3 INTs completing 52.6% of passes. While it’s unknown who the starter will be Saturday, it’s very likely that the Cougars will see both QB’s on the field.

Arizona loses two of their three leading rushers from 2015. Nick Wilson is the leading returner who was part of a three headed beast which companied for 2200+ yds. Wilson carried the ball 134 times for 729 yds and 8 TDs. Orlando Bradford also returns with 47 carries with 208 yds and 3 TDS.

Wide Receiver is a thin position for the Wildcats as they lose more than 2100 yds from the 2015 season to graduation. The leading trio which returns are Nate Phillips in the slot and Samajie Grant and Trey Griffey on the outside. Phillips had 44 receptions for 564 yds and 4 TDs, Grant had 31 for 301 yds and 2 TDs, and Griffey had 11 for 284 yds and 1 TD. Griffey, the son of MLB HoFer Ken Griffey Jr. is the Wildcats big target at receiver standing at 6’3″ it will be an interesting match up to see him against Mike Davis and/or Troy Warner.

The offensive line returns three starters from last year in Layth Friekh at LT, Freddie Tagaloa at LG, and Jacob Alsadeck at RG. One of the most devastating stories of the offseason is the loss of Zach Hemmila who was slated to be the starting center for the Wildcats. Hemmila passed away in his sleep during fall camp which is a heart breaking loss for the team. They have a huge OL which will present challenges for BYU and the 4-3 system.

2015 Team Stats:

Points Scored Per Game: 37.4

Rushing Yardage: 2890

      Returning for 2016: 1346 (46.6%)

Passing Yardage: 3544

      Returning for 2016: 3001 (84.7%)

Receiving Yardage: 3544

      Returning for 2016: 1362 (38.4%)

Total Offense: 9978

      Returning for 2016: 5709 (57.2%)

Fumbles: 25

      Recovered: 15

      Lost: 10

Interceptions: 10

      Returning for 2015: 7

Sacks Allowed: 31 (-152 yds)

First Downs: 320

        Rushing: 139

        Passing: 148

        Penalty: 33

Third Down Conversion: 78/190 (41.0%)

Fourth Down Conversion: 10/27 (37.0%)

Penalties: 74 (-632 yds)

Red Zone Efficiency: 54/65 (83.1%)

Red Zone TDs: 41/65 (63.1%)

PAT Attempts: 60/62 (96.8%)

Individual Stats:

QB Anu Solomon: 205/330, 2667 yds, 20 TDs and 5 INTs, 147.0 QBR, 67 carries for 198 yds and 3 TDs

QB Brandon Dawkins: 20/38, 334 yds, 2 TDs and 2 INTs, 133.3 QBR, 32 carries for 179 yds and 2 TDs

RB Nick Wilson: 134 carries for 729 yds and 8 TDs, 4 rec for 52 yds

RB Orlando Bradford: 47 carries for 208 yds and 3 TDs

WR Nate Phillips: 44 catches for 564 yds and 4 TDs

WR Samajie Grant: 31 catches for 301 yds and 2 TDs

WR Trey Griffey: 11 catches for 284 yds and 1 TD



Arizona may have one of the worst defenses that BYU will face in 2016. The Wildcats gave up 35.8 ppg and huge chunks on the ground, an average of 199 ypg rushing and an average of 4.4 ypc. The front line is extremely undersized with only one starter listed over 250 lbs. They also lose Scooby Wright to the NFL who was their star on defense in ’14 but was injured early on in ’15 and saw a revolving door of walk-ons and the like to fill in for Wright. BYU should be able to move the ball with ease against the Wildcats defense.

As previously mentioned, Arizona has an extremely undersized DL. Belknap and Zellers come in under 247 lbs with Fuimaono listed at 271 yds. Five of the six listed in the team’s two deep are upper classmen. Two of the most talented DL from last year in Reggie Gilbert and Jeffery Worthy have left the program due to graduation.

The linebacker core is the most experienced position for the Wildcats in 2015, but they were decimated by injuries to personnel throughout the season. During the 2015 season, they lost all three projected starters heading into the 2015 in Scooby Wright, Cody Ippolito who had a season ending injury in August, and Jake Matthews who was injured in the eighth game of the season. The group loses Wright to graduation as well as Will Parks who led the team in tackles with 76 and made 3rd Team Pac-12. Paul Magloire is the returner who leads the team in tackles with 72 and will start at WLB for the Wilcats this year, he’ll be on the field with Ippolito at MLB and DeAndre’ Miller who had 50 tackles last season. The group will also see plenty of time from Cal transfer Michael Barton who had 14 starts and 169 tackles in three seasons with the Bears.

The secondary may be the thinnest position for the Wildcats as they finished allowed 268 YPG and 62.3% of passes completed. They lose their most experienced player in Free Safety Jamar Allah who had 13 starts and 63 tackles. BYU should be able to match up well with their size and speed at the receiver position with this inexperienced group of players.

2015 Team Stats:

Points Allowed Per Game: 35.8

Turnover Ratio: 20:16

Forced Fumbles: 9

      Returning for 2016: 4

    Fumbles Recovered: 5

      Returning for 2016: 4

Interceptions: 11

      Returning for 2016: 6

Sacks: 27 (-186 yds)

      Returning for 2016: 15 (-110 yds)

TFL: 75 (-308 yds)

      Returning for 2016: 40.5 (-185 yds)

QBH: 7

      Returning for 2016: 5

PBU: 34

      Returning for 2016: 22

INTs: 11 (98 yds)

      Returning for 2016: 6 (31 yds)

TDs allowed: 58

        Rushing: 30

        Passing: 28

First Downs Allowed: 300

        Rushing: 134

        Passing: 145

        Penalty: 21

Third Down Conversion: 96/209 ( %)

Fourth Down Conversion: 10/18 ( %)

Red Zone Efficiency: 54/58 (%)

Red Zone TDs: 42/58 (%)

PAT Attempts: 57/58 (%)

Key Returning Players:

LB Paul Magloire Jr.: 72 tackles, 4 TFL, 1 PBU, 1 FR

CB DaVonte’ Neal: 63 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 INT, 5 PBU, 1 FR

SS Tellas Jones: 55 tackles, 3 sacks, 7 TFL, 2 PBU, 1 FF

LB DeAndre’ Miller: 50 tackles, 2 sacks, 8 TFL

LB Jake Matthews: 47 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 QBH, 1 FR

CB Cam Denson: 39 tackles, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 3 INT, 1 PBU, 1 FF

DL Luca Bruno: 29 tackles, 1 sack, 1.5 TFL, 1 QBH

NB Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles: 28 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 INT, 1 FF

Special Teams:

Nebraska returns both of their primary returnmen in Nate Phillips and Tyrell Johnson. Phillips scored once on punt return and averaged 17.5 ypr while Johnson averaged 25.5 ypr.

The specialists will be replaced for the 2016 season in Tuscon. It is expected to see Josh Pollack handle punting and place kicking duties while Edgar Gastellum will handle kick off duties.


      Josh Pollack: 1/1 PAT


      Josh Pollack: 2 KO, 130 yds, 65.0 avg


      Anu Solomon: 2 punts, 32 yds, 16.0 avg, 20 lg

Punt Returns:

      Nate Phillips: 7 returns, 121 yds, 17.3 avg, 1 TD, 69 lg

Kick Returns:

      Tyrell Johnson: 16 returns, 408 yds, 25.5 avg, 56 lg

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