UCLA Football: Previewing the Arizona Wildcats - Part 3 - Defense & Special Teams

Matt Kartozian-US PRESSWIRE

In Part 3 of the preview, we take a look at Arizona's struggling defense.

In Part I of the preview, we discussed the fact that Arizona's defense is struggling. They give up a lot of points and yards, and the offensive production discussed in Part II of the preview is really what makes Arizona a strong team.

The Wildcat defense simply hasn't been good in the switch to the 3-3-5. They give up over 31 ppg, allowing about 167 ypg on the ground and 316 ypg through the air. As bad as those numbers are, they would be worse but for Arizona's games against FCS South Carolina St., where the Wildcats only gave up 154 total yards, and Toledo, where the defense only gave up 358. The defense has allowed over 600 yards on four occasions this year.

Defensive Line

Arizona's defense is very light, starting with the defensive line. They start Sione Tuihalamaka (6-2 271 lbs. Jr.) at nose with Tevin Hood (6'0 302 lbs. Jr.) behind him. At the other tackle spot, which is essentially a defensive end spot, Dan Pettinato (6'4 265 lbs. So.) will line up against big guards, and has the smaller Reggie Gilbert (6'4 252 lbs. So.) behind him. Arizona hasn't gotten much production out of the interior line, but Gilbert will play pass rushing downs and has managed 2.5 sacks this season.

At end, Justin Washington (6'2 268 lbs. Jr.) starts and is backed up by Chris Merrill (6'2 273 lbs. Sr.). Washington has only 5 tackles this season and has not recorded a sack. Willie Mobley (6'2 270 lbs. Sr.), a transfer from Ohio St. who first attempted to transfer to UCLA before running into admission difficulties, may also see time after returning from ACL surgery last season.

Linebackers

Arizona essentially starts three safeties at the three linebacker spots. MLB Jake Fischer (6'0 215 lbs. Jr.) missed last season due to an ACL injury but has recovered well. He leads the team with 72 tackles and also has 4.5 tackles for loss. He's very athletic from his MLB spot, but not as athletic as the two OLB's.

The SLB spot is manned by Marquis Flowers (6'3 221 lbs. Jr.), who is second on the team with 55 tackles and adds 7.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, 2 interceptions, and 3 forced fumbles. Flowers started at safety last season and has excelled at the linebacker spot. He was moved to linebacker because of Arizona's strength the safety spot, and it looks to be a very good move. His listed back-up is highly sought after C.J. Dozier (6'2 206 lbs. Fr.), who hasn't recorded a tackle this season. Dozier may be red-shirting at this point.

The final linebacker spot is WLB Sir Thomas Jackson (6'0 215 lbs. Fr.), a walk-on who has found a starting spot on the Wildcat defense. He has 43 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and 5 tackles for loss on the season, and is yet another undersized, athletic linebacker on the defense. He's backed up by Hank Hobson (6'0 224 lbs. So.) who is more of a prototypical linebacker.

Secondary

Arizona's scheme will essentially have three safeties and two cornerbacks in the base defense, with two of the safeties playing hybrid type roles. All three of Arizona's safeties are young and have been productive; Tra'Mayne Bondurant (5'10 207 lbs. So.) has 50 tackles, including 10.5 tackles for loss, and interception, Jared Tevis (5'10 197 lbs. So.) has 44 tackles and 2 interceptions, and Jourdon Grandon (6'0 186 lbs. So.) has 50 tackles and 1 interception. The problem, of course, is that Arizona's safeties are too productive. No defense wants a bunch of safeties to make so many tackles, because it means that the defense is allowing a lot of big runs and completed passes.

At the cornerback spot, Arizona returns Shaquille Richardson (6-2 180 lbs. Jr.), and Jonathan Mcknight (5'11 167 lbs. So.) returns from injury. This is the same Shaq Richardson that was kicked off of the UCLA squad for backpack theft and given the opportunity to earn his way back before fleeing to Tucson. Richardson is listed as an "or" starter with Derrick Rainey (6'1 184 lbs. Jr.), and expect to see a lot of both of them on the field.


Special Teams

Sr. John Bonano is the PK and has hit on 9/15 field goals and all 36 of his extra points. Sr. Kyle Dugandzic handles the punting duties. He is averaging a little over 43 yards on his punts this season.

Daniel Jenkins handles kickoff returns and Richard Morrison handles punt returns. Jenkins has been fairly pedestrian, averaging just about 20 yards per return, but Morrison is averaging over 10 yards per punt return and has scored once.

That concludes the preview of the Arizona Wildcats. Fire away with any additional comments.

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