The best defenses are the ones that have a group of standouts, not just one or two great players. The toughest units also earn the best nicknames.
Purple People Eaters, Steel Curtain, Monsters of the Midway, the Fearsome Foursome, the Doomsday Defense and … Desert Swarm.
Can the 2019 Arizona defense carve its own niche like that? One fan is looking forward to a group of four players doing something spectacular together.
The growth of the defensive core of Colin Schooler, Tony Fields, Lorenzo Burns and Scottie Young (that sounds like a law firm). Also to see if JJ Taylor can take a leap — Andy Greenberg
All four of those defensive players are juniors which makes next season something to look forward to as Kevin Sumlin’s roster will have primarily his players by then. Right now, about 50 percent of the roster is comprised of his recruits.
Seven of the players who started against ASU in the season finale last year return, including the aforementioned foursome and also senior defensive back Tristan Cooper, defensive end Jalen Harris and defensive tackle J.B. Brown.
Defensive end Kyle Wilborn also returns as does captain Jace Whittaker, a cornerback who missed most of last season with an elbow injury, and about 14 of the two- and three-deep players listed on the depth chart at end of last season. That does not include freshmen and newcomers, such as safety Samari Springs, a transfer from Richmond who comes from an NFL family of dad Shawn Springs (Seahawks and Redskins) and grandfather Ron Springs (Cowboys).
By experience alone, Arizona’s defense has the makings of something spectacular. The proof is in the pudding, however, and in the eyes of many fans, that pudding is runny instead of solid.
Arizona ranked No. 92 in total defense in the nation last year, allowing 432 yards a game. The Wildcats were particularly suspect on third-down defense, allowing teams to get a first down 41.08 percent of the time, which ranked No. 88 nationally. That at least is an improvement from the unthinkable No. 119 in Rich Rodriguez’s last season of 2017.
Arizona also improved in total defense after also ranking No. 119 in 2017.
Can Arizona’s defense improve those rankings dramatically and earn a nickname this season? Something to look forward to….
“It’s night and day. He took off a couple times today and made some first downs, especially in the two-minute situation where [the defense] was dropping a bunch of guys [into coverage]. He looks comfortable, he looks healthy.” — Kevin Sumlin on the mobility of his senior quarterback Khalil Tate.
By the numbers
PK Lucas Havrisik went 5-for-5 on field goal attempts including a 52-yard “game winner” at the end of a two-minute drill in Saturday’s scrimmage.
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.