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Wildcats O-Line features big recovery, big opportunity

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Posted at 3:56 PM, Aug 27, 2023

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — One play ended Jordan Morgan’s 2022 season, but wound up extending his Wildcat career.

He decided to spend a final year in Tucson anchoring Arizona’s offensive line, on and off the field.

“It looks like a NASA launch to get this guy to his destination,” Offensive Coordinator and Offensive Line Coach Brennan Carroll said of Morgan’s offseason recovery from an ACL tear last November.

Before that injury, some projected the former Marana High School offensive lineman as a first round NFL Draft pick.

On Senior Day, Morgan walked on the field at Arizona Stadium with a brace on his right knee, unsure if he’d be back in a Wildcat uniform again.

After last season ended, Head Coach Jedd Fisch had three separate conversations with Morgan about his future.

“You know, and to us, that was a huge win, when Jordan finally made his decision of returning,” Fisch said last winter.

Nine months after surgery, the left tackle is once again cleared for liftoff. He credits a detailed plan from Arizona’s training staff and an off-season where “R&R” meant “recovery and rehab.”

“First few months, it was pretty hard,” he said this month. “After that, I just took a positive outlook because that’s all you really gotta do…. Everyone’s been there for me. Coaches. Training staff. Players, also.”

Now, Morgan needs to be there for them. Not just as a pillar on the left side of the line, but as a leader in the locker room.

“I’m one of the oldest dudes here,” he admitted.

The Wildcats have 16 offensive linemen on the roster. 13 are freshmen or sophomores. Morgan is one of only two seniors.

“I didn’t believe it coming into the year, but now I have to really lock in and understand that these guys look up to me,” Morgan said.

One of those young guys: Jonah Savaiinaea — known on the team as “Big Jonah.”

“Before I committed here, we connected right there,” he said of Morgan. “He was one of the guys that came on my visit. And from there on we kinda built that relationship.”

“We’re close,” Morgan said of Savaiinaea. “We lift together. Challenge each other… It’s easy for us to just be competitive.”

“We push each other,” Savaiinaea echoed. “Sometimes Jordan be lifting heavier than me and I get all jealous. And I lift heavier than him and he’s like, ‘Ah, I gotta step it up.’”

Savaiinaea stepped it up last year as a freshman, starting all 12 of Arizona’s games at guard.

That success may have earned him a bigger challenge this fall: Arizona’s coaches could move him outside to right tackle.

“At tackle, I’m by myself,” he explained. “You know, I’mma be one-on-one, every play. Unlike guard, I have help from the center and from the right tackle. So that I’m on an island, I basically have no help.”

But he does have some help in Morgan, who knows what it’s like being a tackle, being on that island.

“[He] just told me, ‘Hey man, it’s gonna be tough out there. There’s gonna be speed guys, a lot of faster guys than the interior,’” Savaiinaea said. “So gotta be ready for it.”

Morgan is ready for his comeback.

His road to recovery could very well take him to the NFL Draft as the first Arizona offensive lineman taken since Eben Britton in 2009.

“I’m not really focused on the draft right now, nor like where I’m at nationally or anything like that,” said Morgan. “I’m just focused on the team, really.”

He opted to stay home one more year, in part because Arizona Football has had its own remarkable recovery.

“Three years ago, everyone was, had no hope, really, for the program,” he reflected. “But now they see, we’re really building. Everyone’s hopping on the train and riding with us.”

A train, or a ‘NASA launch.’ No matter the metaphor, it seems like Morgan, ‘Big Jonah’ and the Wildcats are moving in the right direction.

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