Arizona likely will be without one of its starting safeties for Saturday’s Pac-12 home opener against Colorado.
Jaxen Turner, who has 24 tackles, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and interception through four games, is doubtful to play. He suffered a shoulder injury in the first half of Arizona’s conference-opening loss to Cal last week in Berkeley.
“I don’t expect Jaxen Turner to play Saturday night,” Arizona coach Jedd Fisch said Thursday. “We’re still always hopeful.”
Turner, a 6-foot-2-inch, 210-pound junior, has carved out an essential role in Arizona’s defensive unit. Turner has contributed to two of Arizona’s six takeaways this season, notching an interception against San Diego State and forcing a fumble — and recovering it — against Mississippi State. With a score of 84.5, Turner is the highest-graded defender in the Pac-12 (minimum 73 snaps), according to Pro Football Focus.
Even if Turner is active, Fisch said, “Isaiah Taylor will be the starting safety” alongside Christian Young.
Taylor, the son of Hall of Fame linebacker Jason Taylor, is a second-year freshman from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The 5-11, 200-pound Taylor played preps ball at nationally renowned St. Thomas Aquinas. He was a late addition to Arizona’s 2021 recruiting class, picking the Wildcats over offers from Illinois, Florida Atlantic, Kansas and Minnesota, among other schools.
Taylor logged nine tackles after replacing Turner in the second half last week. Fisch and Arizona’s defensive coaching staff “thought he made a lot of great plays for us in training camp and continues to show ways to be around the ball.”
“He’s active — he was active all of training camp. … He has a really good feel for the ball. He’s communicating better and better,” Fisch said.
“The big thing about safeties is they're the communicators on the back end, and so Isaiah has done a really good job there. Also, Isaiah is a great teammate. Guys like playing with him, being around him, so if Jaxen can’t go on Saturday evening, then Isaiah will go, and there’s a lot of confidence with our players and Isaiah.”
Although Taylor played strong safety at St. Thomas Aquinas, “ever since he’s been here, he’s always played the middle of the field for every practice, every scrimmage all throughout training camp, so he’s kind of been a post safety,” Fisch said.
Williams ‘100% healthy’
Ever since he arrived on the UA campus after transferring from Florida State, D.J. Williams has been an important piece to Arizona’s rushing attack, sharing the backfield with returning starter Michael Wiley and promising true freshmen Jonah Coleman and Rayshon “Speedy” Luke.
Williams had just one rushing attempt and one catch against Cal. Fisch said Williams was nursing an ankle injury and did not practice the Tuesday or Wednesday leading up to the game.
“We weren’t sure exactly where his health was, so we tried to limit his reps in the game,” Fisch said. “Looking back on the film, we probably should’ve given him the ball more. He’s certainly demonstrated his ability to run the football — and run the football well. And he had a nice catch in the backfield.”
Williams is full-go this week.
“D.J. is 100% healthy and came out of the (Cal) game feeling better than he did going into it,” Fisch said.
—Saturday’s contest is Arizona’s “Breast Cancer Awareness Game.” Wildcats players will wear pink wristbands during the game, which comes on the first day of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Said Fisch: “It’s a big deal in Tucson to be able to help and bring education, knowledge about breast cancer to Arizona Stadium. That’s a big deal for us and our program.” Fisch added Arizona players will wear pink wristbands during the game.
—Ex-Wildcat Chuck Levy will serve as honorary captain during the pregame coin toss. Levy was a standout running back during the “Desert Swarm” era at the UA, rushing for 1,493 yards and 19 touchdowns. The Arizona Cardinals selected Levy in the second round of the 1994 draft.
—Colorado starting quarterback Owen McCown is the son of former longtime NFL quarterback Josh McCown, who played for 12 different NFL teams from 2002-20. Fisch coached with seven different NFL teams, but never crossed paths with the older McCown. “And both of us have been on a lot of teams,” Fisch joked. “I know Josh just from being on different teams when we played him. When I was in New England, he was in Houston, I think. I know him, but we’ve never really spent time together in a coach-player relationship.”
The younger McCown is a left-handed quarterback, which won’t be replicated in practice this week. Fisch said all of the Wildcats’ scout-team quarterbacks this week have been right-handers.
Colorado (0-4, 0-1 Pac-12) at Arizona (2-2, 0-1)
Time/TV: 4:30 p.m./FS1
What's at stake: Both teams are looking for their first Pac-12 win, but Colorado is in more dire straits than Arizona. The Buffaloes are winless and have lost all four of their games — against TCU, Minnesota, Air Force and UCLA — by at least 25 points. Because of that, it’s no surprise coach Karl Dorrell’s job security is tenuous at best. Arizona is on the rise after going 1-11 last season. The Wildcats would be halfway to bowl eligibility with a win.
Key matchup: Arizona has been decent on the ground, averaging about 120 yards per game. Michael Wiley’s run for 210 yards and three TDs while averaging 6 yards per carry. He’ll get his shot at a porous Colorado defense that’s given up 323 rushing yards per game.
Players to watch: Colorado WR Daniel Arias is the Buffs’ leading receiver by a wide margin, catching 13 passes for 206 yards. That’s nearly 16 yards per catch. ... Arizona QB Jayden de Laura is a big reason the Wildcats are much more competitive this season. The Washington State transfer has completed about 60% of his passes for 1,149 yards, eight touchdowns and six interceptions.
Facts, figures: The Wildcats’ last home victory over Colorado was in 2018. The Buffaloes have a 9-3 record over UA in Tucson and lead the overall series 16-8. … Colorado QB Owen McCown became just the seventh true freshman in school history to start when he got the nod against UCLA last week. He completed 26 of 42 passes for 258 yards, one touchdown and one interception. … De Laura threw for a career-high 401 yards in last week’s loss at California. It was the 19th 400-yard passing performance in Arizona history. … Arizona WR Jacob Cowing has caught a pass in 36 consecutive games. That’s the second-longest active streak in the Bowl Subdivision.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Support local journalism. Subscribe to azcentral.com today.
This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Arizona safety Jaxen Turner unlikely to play Saturday vs. Colorado