Through four games, Arizonas’s quarterbacks have attempted a combined 160 passes. Only 11 of those throws (7%) have been intended for a tight end, a per- game average of just under three targets.
Wildcats coach Jedd Fisch said Thursday those numbers are nowhere near what he wants from the team’s offense, a unit that’s been stuck in neutral during the 0-4 start.
“I would hope we were closer to five to eight targets a game,” he said.
Fisch labeled his offense as a “tight end-driven” one, yet Bryce Wolma’s five catches on the season rank seventh on the team; two of the players with more receptions are running backs. Fellow tight ends Alex Lines and Stacey Marshall have combined for three grabs.
So what gives?
“I think there were some plays over the course of the season where the tight end maybe was the primary (target) and we didn’t get it to them,” Fisch said.
Wolma, for example, was open twice in the end zone during Arizona’s season-opening game against BYU. Quarterback Gunner Cruz failed to connect with his tight end both times.
Wide receiver Stanley Berryhill’s hot start has played a factor, too. Berryhill’s 48 targets are 18 more than the next leading wideout on the team; his 33 receptions are double that of any other Arizona player.
However, the Oregon game showed some signs of hope on the horizon for Arizona’s tight ends.
Starting quarterback Jordan McCloud completed passes to 10 different UA players, two of whom were tight ends. Wolma also caught McCloud’s lone touchdown throw — his first score since the 2019 season opener — and Lines’ 19-yard reception was Arizona’s second-longest play of the game.
Tight end usage will be a topic of discussion Saturday against UCLA. Bruins tight end Greg Dulcich already has 313 receiving yards on the year, including two games with at least 115 yards.
“He’s an extreme challenge,” said Fisch, who was UCLA’s offensive coordinator in 2017 the year before Dulcich stepped on campus. “They’ve done a great job developing him over the years. Each year he’s gotten better, more explosive.”
Fisch, Kelly differ on 2013 conversation
On Monday, Fisch said that he spoke to Chip Kelly back in 2013, when Kelly was head coach of the NFL’s Eagles, about potentially joining the coaching staff in Philadelphia.
Kelly offered a contrasting view Wednesday, telling local media in Los Angeles, “I did not talk to him about that.”
Fisch was asked Thursday about Kelly’s response and laughed: “I guess we have different recollections of 10 years ago.”
He added, “we’ll focus on the game on Saturday night, which I think is far more important than what happened in 2013.”
Wildcats won’t redshirt Rocker
As Arizona prepares to play its fifth game of the season, decisions must be reached on which players to redshirt. A Division I football player can play in up to four games in a given year without burning his redshirt designation.
One of the freshmen who will not redshirt is running back Stevie Rocker Jr. The Tucson native and Canyon del Oro High School graduate has appeared in each of Arizona’s four games; Fisch says he expects Rocker to continue being a part of the team’s offense the remainder of the year.
“I believe Stevie can help us,” Fisch said. “We believe that he’s developing into a player that immediately can make an impact over these next eight games.”
Freshman safety Isaiah Taylor has appeared in two games (BYU, NAU), though it is still unclear if he will redshirt this season.
“There are some discussions that will occur with some players both veteran and younger,” Fisch said regarding the decision on which players will or won’t redshirt.
Backup receiver rotation up for grabs
The Wildcats seem to have their top three receivers set in stone with Berryhill, Tayvian Cunningham and Brian Casteel seeing the majority of the work.
But after that, the roles are very much in the air. Boobie Curry has emerged as a possible No. 4 receiver in the absence of Jamarye Joiner, who’s return from offseason foot surgery has been slower than expected.
Joiner, however, impressed Fisch in practice Wednesday.
“Jamarye had a very good practice (Wednesday),” Fisch said.
The Wildcats coach also praised freshman receivers Anthony Simpson and Dorian Singer and expects all of UA’s wide receivers to push each other for extended playing time.
“That position group is probably the one that had the biggest competition (during bye week),” Fisch said.