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Previewing the Arizona Wildcats: Part II - Defense and Special Teams

Arizona's 4-3 defense is struggling. As mentioned in Part I of the preview, Arizona is giving up 37.5 ppg (117th), 196 rushing ypg (99th) and 291 passing ypg (110th). They have only 3 sacks on the season. They do have 29 tackles for loss for -100 yards, but 9 of the tackles and -47 of the lost yardage came against FCS Northern Arizona.

They have also had a rough early schedule, facing #9 Oklahoma St. on the road, followed by #6 Stanford and #10 Oregon at home in weeks 2-5. In week 6, they played USC on the road, followed a trip to Corvallis to face the previously winless Oregon St. Beavers. The results were ugly in each of those games. Oregon ran for 415 yards and Stanford ran for 242 while USC passed for 468 yards and Oklahoma St. passed for 397 against the Wildcats.

Defensive Line

Arizona lost pass rush specialists Ricky Elmore and Brooks Reed, and their defensive line has not been able to compensate. Inside, there is plenty of depth. Arizona lists both DT positions with an or designation, and 5 defensive tackles will split the snaps. Jr. Jowyn Ward (6-2 294 lbs.) and So. Justin Washington (6-2 280 lbs.) are listed as starting at one DT spot with Fr. Sanielia Fuimaono (6-2 306 lbs.) as the third-string. So. Sione Tuihalamaka (6-2 280 lbs.) and Fr. Kirifi Taula (6-3 280 lbs.) will man the other DT spot. Jr. Willie Mobley, a transfer from Ohio St. who first attempted to transfer to UCLA before running into admission difficulties is probably the most talented of all Arizona's DT's, but he tore his ACL in pick-up basketball in the offseason and is not available.

At end, Arizona starts Sr.'s C.J. Parish (6-2 245 lbs.) and Mohammed Usman (6-2 245 lbs.). They each have a sack this season, but have not been nearly as effective as the two pass rushers they are replacing. Fr. Dan Pettinato (6-4 260 lbs.) and Reggie Gilbert (6-3 230 lbs.) back-up Parish, and Jr. Lamar De Rego (6-3 265 lbs.) is listed behind Usman.


Sr. MLB Derek Earls (6-3 247 lbs.) leads the team with 41 tackles (31 solo) and 5 tackles for loss. He's backed up by Fr. Rob Hankins (6-1 220 lbs.). Earls has nearly surpassed his season total in tackles last season (44) in which he got off to a rough start as a JUCO transfer.

At SLB, Sr. Paul Vassallo (6-3 247 lbs.) starts and is backed up by Sr. Bilal Muhammad (5-10 235 lbs.) Vassallo is second on the team with 41tackles (25 solo) and 4 tackles for loss. Like Earls, Vassallo is a JUCO transfer, but he led the team in tackles last season (102) and is off to another good start this year.

Arizona starts a Fr. at WLB after losing Jr. Jake Fischer to a torn ACL in the offseason. Hank Hobson (6-2 213 lbs.) has only 10 tackles this season. Hobson is backed up by Jr. David Lopez (6-3 230 lbs.).


Arizona starts Sr. Trevin Wade (5-11 192 lbs.) and So. Shaquille Richardson (6-2 180 lbs.). 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 "earned" the starting spot after So. Jonathon McKnight was lost for the season due to injury. While he does have 3 interceptions this season, he has also been taken advantage of repeatedly, especially when Arizona attempted to match him up against Justin Blackmon on national television. Arizona will use Fr. Jourdon Grandon (6-1 180 lbs.) at Nickleback.

Sr. Lyle Brown (5-10 180 lbs.) and freshmen Cortez Johnson (6-2 190 lbs.) and Tramayne Bondurant (5-10 185 lbs.) are the backups.

At FS, Jr. Adam Hall (6-4 220 lbs.) or Marquis Flowers (6-3 220 lbs.) will start. Hall is coming off a spring ACL injury and has 10 tackles to Flowers' 34, but he is listed as an alternate starter.

SS is manned by Sr. Robert Golden (5-11 200 lbs.) who has 36 tackles this season. Jr. Mark Watley (6-1 187 lbs.) is the backup.

Special Teams

Sr. John Bonano is the PK. Arizona has used Sr. Alex Zendejas and Jr. Jaime Salazar, who combined to go 2-6 on FG attempts and 13-18 on XP attempts, so the Wildcats are not giving Bonano a shot.

Jr. Kyle Dugandzic handles the punting duties. He is averaging 46.27 on his punts this season.

Arizona is allowing 22.80 yards per kickoff return and 12.55 yards per punt return, which includes a touchdown. Ka'Deem Carey and Fr. Garic Wharton will handle kick return duties. They are averaging 21.71 and 20.80 yards per return, respectively. So. Richard Morrison will return punts, but he has only 6 returns for 35 yards this season.

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