Arizona Wildcats football training camp preview, Part II: Offense

Following an offseason of adding highly productive transfers and standout true freshmen, Arizona didn’t just take a step forward offensively in 2022: The Wildcats long-jumped their way to one of the top units in the Pac-12 — and the country.
The Wildcats had the sixth-best passing offense nationally — third best in the Pac-12 behind Washington and USC — and averaged 6.83 yards per offensive snap, which ranked 11th in college football last season. The offensive explosion by the UA was in part a ploy to attract defensive talent to Arizona. The hypothesis: If Arizona’s offense can generate yards and points, then defensive players will flock to Arizona for ’23; seven of the UA’s eight signees out of the transfer portal this year are defensive players, including former five-star linebacker and Oregon Duck Justin Flowe.
“We felt if we didn’t get good on offense, we were never going to be able to recruit defense,” Fisch said. “No one was going to want to come to a team that couldn’t score.”
With most of its starters returning, Arizona’s offense, once again, appears to have one of the top units this season.
University of Arizona spring game
Key returners: Left tackle Jordan Morgan, right tackle Jonah Savaiinaea, wide receivers Tetairoa McMillan and Jacob Cowing, quarterback Jayden de Laura, tight end Tanner McLachlan, running back Michael Wiley
Key departures: Wide receiver Dorian Singer, right tackle Paiton Fears, left guard Josh Donovan
The numbers game: 3,685 (yards de Laura passed for in 2022, the third most by a UA quarterback in a season behind Nick Foles and Willie Tuitama), 85 (Cowing’s Pac-12-leading receptions, the third most by a Wildcats receiver behind Bobby Wade and Dennis Northcutt), 456 (receiving yards by McLachlan, the most by an Arizona tight end since Rob Gronkowski in 2008), 214 (rushing yards by Wiley in the Territorial Cup finale against Arizona State).
The rundown: Despite losing Singer, an All-Pac-12 selection, to USC via the transfer portal, the Wildcats return two potential NFL prospects in Cowing and Morgan, who will start at left tackle once again this season and should become the first UA offensive lineman taken in the NFL Draft since Eben Britton in 2009.
Morgan, the Marana product and preseason All-Pac-12 second-team selection, was dubbed the third-best offensive tackle entering the college football season, according to Pro Football Focus. Morgan suffered a season-ending knee injury during Arizona’s upset win over UCLA at the Rose Bowl last season. Due to his injury interfering with draft preparation, Morgan opted to return to Arizona and improve his stock.
Morgan’s tackle counterpart this season will be Savaiinaea, a sophomore from Honolulu who started all 12 games at right guard and was a Freshman All-American. In his first season at the UA, the 6-5, 330-pound Savaiinaea was never penalized and surrendered only two sacks, per PFF.
Arizona State at Arizona, 2022 Territorial Cup
“If he can play as well at tackle as he did at guard, this kid will be a 15-year NFL player,” Fisch said of Savaiinaea. “Him and Jordan will be able to do a heck of a job protecting Jayden.
“We sort of like to throw the ball in Tucson, so if we can protect that quarterback, it’s going to give us a great chance.”
The Wildcats added former Colorado wide receiver Montana Lemonious-Craig in the transfer portal. The 6-2, 190-pound Los Angeles-area product erupted for three catches for 154 yards and two touchdowns in the Buffaloes’ spring game. Lemonious-Craig will start alongside Cowing and McMillan, one of the top receiving tandems nationally, this season. McMillan, a two-time Pac-12 Freshman of the Week, flashed brilliance in the spring with several acrobatic, one-handed, eyebrow-raising catches.
“I feel like the program is going in a great direction, the offense has a lot of firepower, and I can’t wait to be an addition to it,” Lemonious-Craig said.
“I just want to play football and win games. I’m looking forward to this opportunity over there, that’s for sure.”
At running back, the Wildcats have one of the deepest running back rooms in the Pac-12 between Wiley, sophomore Jonah Coleman, former Florida State transfer DJ Williams, Rayshon “Speedy” Luke, Tucson native Stevie Rocker and freshman Brandon Johnson, who participated in spring ball.
With one season in Arizona’s offense under his belt, de Laura will return under center to quarterback the Wildcats for another year. While throwing 25 touchdown passes, the former Washington State transfer tossed a Pac-12-worst 13 interceptions, including a career-high of four against his former school, Washington State.
Fisch expects de Laura, who added roughly 25 pounds to his 6-foot frame this offseason, to “be great, and I’d be very disappointed if he’s not.”
“We were the only team in the Pac-12 (last season) that brought in a transfer and didn’t have experience with that quarterback before. ... For us, this was brand new,” Fisch said. “Every experience was a new experience; this year, it’s not going to be. ...
“So, I’m hopeful that Jayden has grown, matured. ... If he knows our offense as well as I think he should, I think we should have more success than we had.”
Arizona quarterback Jayden de Laura and nickel back Treydan Stukes were the player representatives for the UA at Pac-12 Media on Friday in Las Vegas.

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