Analyzing Arizona Football's edge rusher room ahead of the 2024 season

Arizona is entering a third straight year of gambling on an incoming transfer to be a star coming off the edge; will Tre Smith meet the mark?
EasyPost Hawai'i Bowl - Coastal Carolina v San Jose State m
EasyPost Hawai'i Bowl - Coastal Carolina v San Jose State m / Darryl Oumi/GettyImages

We've reached the final group of players you'll see on the All-22 footage before moving into the specialists: the edge rushers. Arizona Football has been relying on incoming transfers to be one-year wonders at the position for the last two seasons, and that pattern won't be changing under Brent Brennan.

In 2022, it was USC transfer Hunter Echols who led the edge for the Wildcats, and last season it was Taylor Upshaw, who transferred to Colorado from Michigan but decided that the Buffaloes weren't the team for him. In 2024, it will be former San Jose State standout and Arizona native Tre Smith taking up the reins.

2023 Roster:

  • Taylor Upshaw - Undrafted in 2024 NFL Draft
  • Isaiah Ward - Transferred to Washington
  • Russell Davis II - Transferred to Washington
  • Orin Patu - Transferred to Bethune-Cookman
  • Ammon Kaufusi - Returned to Arizona
  • Julian Savaiinaea - Returned to Arizona
  • Nolan Clement - Returned to Arizona
  • Dominic Lolesio - Returned to Arizona
  • Christian Madoski - Returned to Arizona
  • Tristan Davis - Returned to Arizona
  • Sterling Lane II - Returned to Arizona; Moved to linebacker

2024 Projected roster:

  • Tre Smith - Transferred in from San Jose State
  • Stanley Ta'ufo'ou - Transferred in from USC
  • Chase Kennedy - Transferred in from Utah
  • Lance Keneley - Transferred in from Stanford
  • Cyrus Durham - Transferred in from College of San Mateo
  • Ammon Kaufusi - Returned to Arizona
  • Julian Savaiinaea - Returned to Arizona
  • Nolan Clement - Returned to Arizona
  • Dominic Lolesio - Returned to Arizona
  • Christian Madoski - Returned to Arizona
  • Tristan Davis - Returned to Arizona
  • Eduwa Okundaye - Incoming freshman

Joining Smith as new faces on campus are a trio of edge rushers from former Pac-12 schools: Utah's Chase Kennedy, USC's Stanley Ta'ufo'ou, and Stanford's Lance Keneley. Additionally, Cyrus Durham is switching positions from linebacker to defensive end after moving up to Division I from the JuCo ranks.

Tre Smith (RS Junior) | 6'5" 255 lbs.

Tre Smith, Jacory Croskey-Merritt
San Jose State v New Mexico / Sam Wasson/GettyImages

Smith finally flashed last season with the Spartans in his third year under Brent Brennan and defensive line coach Joe Seumalo. He posted a career-high 66 tackles, 9.5 tackles for a loss, and 6.5 sacks en route to a first-team All-Mountain West nod.

Standing at an athletic 6-foot-5 and 255 pounds, the situation in Tucson is too perfect for Smith. He gets to return to his home state, play under the same coaches, and take up the starting mantle with Upshaw in the NFL. He's poised to have a solid season and should end the year as Arizona's most productive pass-rusher.

Stanley Ta'ufo'ou (Graduate) | 6'2" 275 lbs.

Stanley Ta'ufo'ou, Romello Height
USC v Arizona State / Christian Petersen/GettyImages

Ta'ufo'ou is joining Arizona for a sixth season of eligibility after being a part of USC's football team from 2019-24 and seeing the field in every game from 2021-22. The coaching staff will look to get him back to 2022 form, where he notched 27 tackles (21 solo) and his first sack.

Ta'ufo'ou saw his production dip last season and he only played in eight games, but a thinner defensive line group for Arizona pushes him up the depth chart. Here's to hoping he takes the same path Echols did and becomes a surprisingly productive player. His sturdier frame could make him a viable power-rush option opposite Smith, who profiles as a lighter and more athletic edge.

Cyrus Durham (RS Sophomore) | 6'4" 235 lbs.

Durham is an intriguing prospect who may not see a ton of field time immediately, but he could develop into a great athlete coming off the edge. He was a jack of all trades in his sole season with the College of San Mateo, notching 66 tackles, 18.5 TFLs, and 10.5 sacks from his outside linebacker position.

Arizona is moving him to the defensive line, and he'll fit in best as an edge rusher. He'll likely need to take a season to get his feet under him and get used to his new position while packing some pounds on. Keep an eye on Durham, who has all the hallmarks of a late-bloomer.

Lance Keneley (Graduate) | 6'4" 250 lbs.

Stanford v Arizona
Stanford v Arizona / David Madison/GettyImages

Keneley is coming off a career year with Stanford, but it appears that trips across the country with the Cardinal as a part of the ACC weren't in his plans. He played in all 12 games last year and racked up 35 total tackles, four TFLs, and 1.5 sacks. He also has ties with Duane Akina, Arizona's recently promoted defensive coordinator.

He earned a prestigious degree from Stanford before landing at Arizona, and he figures to be in the mix for the other rotational edge rusher role opposite Smith. He's got an athletic build at 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds, but he may need to add on some more muscle if he wants to get through Big 12 offensive tackles.

Chase Kennedy (Junior) | 6'3" 231 lbs.

Chase Kennedy
Utah v USC / Meg Oliphant/GettyImages

Kennedy is joining Arizona after spending his last two seasons at Utah where he saw some action as a reserve. Last season, the former three-star recruit out of Texas played in six games and logged a combined TFL against Oregon State for his only stat of the year.

He'll likely see the field on special teams for the Wildcats with a possibility of working into the rotation if any injuries occur. He held offers from ASU and San Diego State among others in the transfer portal and will land in Tucson with three years of eligibility remaining.

IDL. Analyzing Arizona Football's interior defensive line ahead of the 2024 season. dark. ICYMI

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