No limits: Jacob Cowing’s speed and skill make him star attraction in Arizona offense | Arizona Wildcats Football

When asked if he expects to touch the ball a certain number of times per game in his first season as the Arizona Wildcat, Jacob Cowing answered exactly what you expect of him:

“Not at all. I’m a team guy. As long as we as a team do the work and get the win (that’s) what matters to me. I don’t really care about the personal stats. I just want to get the win and overthrow this program.

Cowing’s sincerity in winning games and transforming UA football cannot be questioned. The other part, though?

“He’s lying to you,” receivers coach Kevin Cummings said with a laugh. “He wants the ball every play. He’s a competitor that way.

Cowing didn’t come to Arizona to be a decoy, although he could be effective at times. He came, at least in part, because he knows Jedd Fisch can help elevate his game and increase his NFL Draft stock.

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Just ask Stanley Berryhill III, Cowing’s predecessor as a slot catcher and all-around weapon in Fisch’s offense. Berryhill caught 83 passes for 744 yards last year, becoming the sixth player in school history to have 80+ receptions in a season.

Berryhill also had 19 runs and 18 punt returns. In total, that’s 120 hits, or 10 per game.

Cowing is expected to be Arizona’s leading punt returner. He’s also in the mix to return kickoffs. Fisch wants to give him the ball as much as possible and in every possible way.

UTEP’s transfer will line up in the slot, out, maybe even in the backfield at times. He will go deep, catch bubble screens and perform fly sweeps.

“There aren’t a lot of limits to his game,” Cummings said. “He can go vertical. He can win man against man. And he’s got the smarts and the savvy to adapt to some of that stuff in the slot, some of that zone coverage, slipping defenders.

“It’s up to us as a team to put him in as many different places as possible to use those skills. For him, he just plays there, and no matter where we line him up, he has does a great job of figuring out where he needs to be and how to direct him.

Cowing was used similarly to Berryhill in some ways last year at UTEP – but differently in others.

Both players lined up in the slot about three-quarters of the time on passing plays, according to Pro Football Focus – 75.8% for Berryhill, 75.9% for Cowing.

The Miners threw a lot more at Cowing than the Wildcats at Berryhill. Almost a quarter of Cowing’s targets – 24.3% – came on passes thrown 20 yards or more down the field. Berryhill’s rate was less than half (11.9%).

Meanwhile, 82 of Berryhill’s 118 targets – 69.4% – have come on passes thrown from 9 yards or less. Cowing’s rate was 43.2%.

Cowing only rushed the ball four times but gained 75 yards, including a 53-yard touchdown. Berryhill has gained 121 yards on 19 carries.

Cowing played in a different system at UTEP, and he will have a different quarterback here than Berryhill. Laura’s Jayden willingness to shoot the field is one of the reasons Arizona pursued him in the transfer portal.

De Laura and Cowing connected for a long touchdown in practice Thursday.

“Our vertical passing game needs to be better,” Cummings said. “It’s one of our goals as a team. I think he (Cowing) did a great job showing the team he can be that guy.

Cowing is likely to have more opportunities to make plays on the field than Berryhill, who signed with the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons after this year’s draft and is expected to make his NFL debut on Friday. Will Cowing match him – or even surpass him – in total touches?

As much as they want to get Cowing the ball, Fisch and his staff have more toys to play with. The additions include a trio of prized freshmen: tailback Rayshon Luke, tight end Keyan Burnett and wide receiver Tetairoa McMillan. Other options include sophomore receiver Dorian Singer, who caught 18 passes in the last five games last season.

Cowing’s deep speed alone — even if he’s not targeted on any given play — could create opportunities for others.

“It can do a lot for offense,” Singer said.

The UA offense needs all the help it can get. Arizona only scored more than 19 points twice last season. Each game featured a non-offensive touchdown—a pick six against USC and a blocked punt returned for a score against Utah.

“So smart”

Cummings and Singer praised the collective ability of the Wildcats’ first-year wide receivers, a group that includes McMillan, Kevin Green Jr. and AJ Jones.

“They’re so smart,” Cummings said.

McMillan should start. Green has been one of the most productive pass catchers in camp and is pushing for meaningful playing time.

Cummings offered the following ratings of both players:

On McMillan: “The T-Mac team is doing well. It must be better with some of our fade balls. It’s a constant training point for us simply because it’s so dangerous. The difference between the high school fade and the college football fade is a lot more physical. He begins to learn how to use his physique to his advantage. He has a good size (6-5, 205). … The last two days he really opened up, he started showing himself that way.

On Green: “He needs to take the game more seriously, whether it’s nutrition, whether it’s study hall, whether it’s meetings, whatever it is, he needs to continue to mature. But as far as when we’re here on the pitch, I couldn’t say enough about him. He grabbed the easy route the other day, spun it 60 yards. He’s a great playmaker. He just has to keep growing.





Arizona coach Jedd Fisch gives a thumbs up as the players stretch ahead of Thursday’s practice on campus.


Rebecca Sasnett, Arizona Daily Star


Bonus points

Continuing a long-camp trend, the defense generally got the better of the offense in Thursday’s 11-on-11 game. Johnny NansenThe group of managed three interceptions (although one could have been declared sacrificed). The interceptors were Isaiah Rutherford, Jaydin Young and Malik Roseau.

De Laura threw two of the pickaxes, Jordan McCloud The other. De Laura continues to struggle with inconsistency during camp. He sometimes struggled to deal with pocket games. Some of his best plays have come out

the pocket. An example from Thursday: the aforementioned deep ball at Cowing.

Pick up where it left off in the spring, freshman Noah Fifita was the most impressive quarterback in practice. He has the strongest arm in the group, has shown a knack for making plays and has kept turnovers to a minimum.

Cummings on veteran receiver Jamarye CarpenterThe return of foot surgery: “Jamarye still has some conditioning to do. But he came and competed. He arrives with the mindset that he is ready to play. As a team, we have to pay attention to how many reps he does to make sure his body stays healthy. But he also needs to get enough work to get in shape.

With some veterans out or resting, freshman Jacob Kongaika worked with the first team at nose tackle. First-year student Russell Davis II worked with the second team at the edge “Cat” position.

defensive lineman Paris Shand landed a pair of sacks during the 11-on-11 game.

Cornerback Isaiah Mays, who was absent for undisclosed reasons, attended practice. He did not take part in any exercises or ancillary work. Other players who stayed out included the tailback John Jalendefensive tackle Dion Wilson Jr.. and cornerback Treydan Stukes.

Senior Safety young christian does The Athletic’s annual list of college football’s weirdest athletes. Young checked in at No. 47.

Country music artist Phil Vassar will perform a free concert at the UA Mall ahead of the Sept. 10 home opener against Mississippi State.

The Wildcats are scheduled to practice at 9:15 a.m. Friday. Their first official camp scrimmage is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday.

Contact sportswriter Michael Lev at 573-4148 or mlev@tucson.com. On Twitter @michaeljlev

Keith P. Plain