Go-to Grant hoping to be a go for Arizona this week
TUCSON, Ariz. — Arizona receiver Samajie Grant is the great-to-be-around guy, the funny guy, the hard worker, the high IQ football guy, the stop-on-a-dime player and so much more.
So when those who talk about him say — and they say it plenty — that he’s just Samajie being Samajie, it translates into so many things
"He loves football and is excited to practice," Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said. "A lot of guys look at it as work, but not him. It probably hurt him not to practice (on Tuesday) because he likes doing everything football. He’s one of our better football players."
And that’s saying a lot with Arizona (3-0) improving its stock of quality football guys.
But the immediate question is whether Grant will part of this weekend’s action. He suffered a concussion Saturday night against Nevada, and Rodriguez said it’s not clear if Grant will be available vs. California (2-0).
Grant was listed as questionable on Thursday’s injury report. It would be a significant blow if he cannot play, though Arizona is plenty deep at wide receiver.
Still, Grant has been sort of Arizona’s go-to guy three games into the season, grabbing 14 passes for 205 yards and one touchdown, while missing nearly three quarters of the game against Nevada. He’s second to only Cayleb Jones in catches and yards.
"As far as I can tell he feels normal," receiver Nate Phillips said on Monday. "He hasn’t really changed in my opinion. He’s still running around being Samajie, so I think he’s feeling great."
He’s played that way through two-plus games. Whenever Arizona has needed a sure catch, Grant has been there … actually there and seemingly everywhere.
"He’s a guy who learned all four (wide receiver) positions as a true freshman," said Rodriguez. "He could play running back and the truth is he could probably play DB, too. He’s a valuable guy for us to have in the lineup when he’s healthy."
Grant’s status could be clarified Thursday afternoon when UA releases its injury report. After the Nevada game, Rodriguez said Grant "seemed fine" wanted to go back in. Competitors usually do — under any circumstances.
"I understood why he wanted to get back in the game," said UA senior wideout Austin Hill. "I was the same way a few years when I got knocked out. I didn’t even know what day it was. I love the competitiveness, but at the end of the day we need to get him healthy as fast as possible."
Grant arrived at camp with the intention of improving on his performance from last season, when he caught 47 passes for 373 yards and one touchdown. He was one of Arizona’s shining young stars, along with classmate Phillips.
Wide receivers coach Tony Dews said Grant "worked so hard over the summer" to be prepared for this season. He’s better physically and mentally. "He understands the game because he works at it," Dews said.
Grant, who was unavailable to the media this week, said last month that he could always be better.
"I just gotta focus," Grant said midway through camp. "Sometimes I lose focus — not a lot — when stuff hits the fan. But I have to focus."
What’s clear is that opponents must keep an eye on him. Grant, a 5-foot-9 athlete from Compton, Calif., has been as slippery as any UA receiver in the last two years. He runs crisp routes and makes stop-and-starts better than most.
It’s one of the reasons why he’s so tough to defend.
"It helps when you have shorter legs," Rodriguez joked. "It doesn’t take you long to get your feet moving. He’s got natural quickness. And he has good football sense, can adjust his body."
Dews said Grant’s ability to stop-and-start helps tremendously in running routes, and the fact that he is a former running back doesn’t hurt.
"First of all that’s God-given talent," Dews said. "I wish I could tell you I taught him that but that’s recruiting. He can get in and out of routes that the taller receiver struggles with. He can play inside and outside."
And there’s that vertical jump. Dews estimated it to be at least 35 inches, which allows Grant to get to balls that other short receivers can’t get to.
"As a coach you want as many guys who can stop and start as you can have," Dews said. "That doesn’t have height on it. If a guy has a God-given ability, that stuff helps him get open. That’s tough on a DB."