Season Preview: Week 3 at Arizona (Part 2: Defense/Overall)
by, 05-26-2010 at 03:04 PM (946 Views)
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DL—Arizona’s line could struggle mightily this year and could break out, depending on the play of new starters on the interior. The Wildcats return Brooks Reed and Ricky Elmore at the end positions. Elmore had 44 tackles (11.5 TFL) and 10.5 sacks last year, but Reed recorded just 23 tackles (5 TFL) and two sacks last season. The pair lack size (averaging 6-4, 252.5), but as experienced seniors know how to make up for that. Adding depth is senior D’Aundre Reed, who has seven career starts. At DT, Arizona loses second team All-Pac 10 performer Earl Mitchell and Donald Horton. Competing for the two spots in a wide-open race will be returners Lolomana Mikaele (who has four career starts), Sione Tuihalamaka, Dominique Austin, Jonathan Hollins, Jowyn Ward, and Justin Washington. Mikaele and Tuihalamaka were listed at the top of the depth chart in the spring, but a lot could change by mid-September. 4-star JuCo transfer Willie Mobley could also see action. Overall, this group has experience on the outside but major question marks on the inside. If they can’t answer those questions at defensive tackle, it could be a long year for the Wildcat defense.
Position Grade: C+
LB—For the second week in a row, Iowa will face an opponent that must replace all three starters at linebacker. Two of Arizona’s LBs were All-Pac 10 performers a year ago, making replacing them that much harder. In the middle, Travis Erno and CJ Parish will compete for the job with 4-star JuCo transfer Derek Earls, who was at the top of the depth chart in the spring. On the outside, sophomores Jake Fischer and RJ Young and redshirt freshman Cordarius Golston will compete with another JuCo transfer, 3-star Paul Vassallo, for playing time. 3-star Kyle Benson is the Wildcats’ top incoming freshman but is listed at just 212 pounds. If he can bulk up, he may see action early in his career. Overall, this is the weakest unit on the whole team. They lack any experience at all and if their newcomers don’t make a huge impact, the defense could be in trouble.
Position Grade: C-
DB—At corner, junior Trevin Wade was an honorable mention All-Pac 10 performer in 2009. Wade led all returning Wildcats with 71 tackles, five interceptions and nine pass breakups. Competing for the starting job at the second corner spot are juniors Marcus Benjamin and Lyle Brown as well as senior Mike Turner; Benjamin is the likely starter and was listed at the top of the depth chart in the spring. At strong safety, junior Robert Golden started all 13 games last year after making the switch from corner. Golden had 41 tackles and two interceptions (including one he took back for a 79-yard touchdown against Stanford) in 2009. At free safety, Adam Hall and Joe Perkins were listed at the top of the spring depth chart, but expect true freshman Marquis Flowers to start. Flowers is 6-foot, 3-inches, 210 pounds and runs in the 4.4 range. He could make a huge impact for the Wildcats this year. Overall, Arizona is solid in the defensive backfield. They have good talent at all four spots and if Marquis Flowers makes a big impact right away, this could be a very good unit.
Position Grade: B
Synopsis: Not only does Arizona have to replace seven startes on defense, but they also have to replace coordinator Mark Stoops, who replaces legend Mickey Andrews at Florida State. Like on offense, Arizona will go with co-coordinators, Greg Brown and Tim Kish. While this group has quality talent, a lack of experience coupled with new leaders brings a lot of question marks. This group probably won’t be spectacular but has the ability to surprise.
Overall Defensive Grade: C+
Special Teams Synopsis: Punter Keenyn Crier has started all 38 games in his college career and looks to be among the nation’s best in 2010. Also returning is junior place kicker Alex Zendejas, who last season was 38/41 on PATs and 17/22 on field goals with a long of 47 yards. Returning punts will be William Wright, who had 12 returns for 210 yards and one TD a year ago. Leading a number of kick returners will be Travis Cobb, (30 returns, 762 yards, one touchdown in 2009) and Keola Antolin (9 returns, 256 yards in 2009).
Overall Assessment: Because of Arizona’s offensive firepower, they could be among the top2-3 teams in a wide-open Pac-10; however, because of their inexperienced defense, they could also be among the bottom 3-4 teams in the conference. If Arizona finds the right balance on defense and works well with four new coordinators, they could give Iowa all the Hawkeyes can handle. With the long road trip, 9:30 central start time, and Arizona heat (which, even in the evening will be an irritant), there is a good chance Iowa will be way out of its comfort zone. When Arizona has the ball, it will be an exciting battle between a great offense and a stellar defense. An experienced line should give Foles enough time to find one of almost a dozen good targets, but if last season is any indication, Iowa’s defense will be ready to play. When Iowa has the ball, the matchups all favor the Hawkeyes. A lack of depth at defense tackle and linebacker should allow Iowa (which will likely be starting to gel on the line by week three) to run wild. Also, Iowa’s receivers could have a good day against Arizona’s new corner and freshman free safety. Despite Arizona’s offense and less than ideal game conditions, if Iowa can limit the turnovers and penalties, they should come out on top. Expect a close game, but Iowa’s offense should be able to pull away late.
Final Score: Iowa 34, Arizona 27