Arizona Football

Arizona Wildcats’ Scooby Wright reaches unanimous All-American status at quickest pace




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One significant difference between Scooby Wright III and his unanimous All-American predecessors at Arizona: He is only a sophomore, 26 games into his Wildcat career.

Wright will play in his 27th game as a Wildcat on Dec. 31 in the Fiesta Bowl against Boise State.

Because of Arizona playing a 12-game schedule and the Wildcats participating in a bowl last season and the Pac-12 title game this year, 26 games equates to junior status back in the playing days of fellow unanimous All-Americans Ricky Hunley, Darryll Lewis, Rob Waldrop and Tedy Bruschi. Chris McAlister played Arizona’s first regular-season 12-game schedule as a senior in 1998.

McAlister, the Wildcats’ best shutdown cornerback in school history, transferred to Arizona after his freshman season at Mount San Antonio College, so his 27th game at Arizona was four games into his senior season. He established himself as a versatile threat, returning the opening kickoff that season, in 1998, 100 yards for a touchdown at Hawaii.

When Hunley played his 27th game as a junior at Arizona in 1982, the Wildcats traveled to South Bend, Ind., and upset Notre Dame. Hunley, who chose Arizona over the Fighting Irish and Ohio State in the recruiting process, was in the midst of a consensus All-American season as a junior. He was the first All-American with Arizona playing in a premier conference like the Pac-10.

Lewis was a running back in his redshirt freshman season of 1988. When he played his 26th game as a defensive back as a senior in 1990, he produced one of the most memorable plays in Arizona football history, a game-saving tackle of Oregon quarterback Bill Musgrave inches from the goal line. Lewis, who also had two interceptions in Arizona’s 22-17 win over the Ducks, was well on his way to becoming the Wildcats’ first unanimous All-American since Hunley and the school’s first Jim Thorpe Award winner.

Waldrop, a teammate of Lewis’ in 1990, became the cornerstone of the Desert Swarm defense by his 27th game with Arizona as a junior in 1992. That was the game in which the Wildcats nearly upset No. 1 Miami, losing 8-7 at the Orange Bowl Stadium. Coming back strong from a knee injury in 1991, Waldrop had one of his best games anchoring the middle of the defensive line at Miami when the Hurricanes netted 2 yards rushing on 22 carries.

Waldrop had a team-high five tackles and one sack. He became a consensus All-American that season and followed that with a unanimous selection in 1993.

Bruschi’s career is one that resembles that of Wright the most because by the end of his sophomore season, he was one of Arizona’s impact defenders that resulted in a 29-0 drubbing of Miami in the Fiesta Bowl. He was the Defensive MVP of that game. Wright has the opportunity to earn the same honor at the conclusion of his second season with the Wildcats.


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* Qualifying agencies for unanimous All-American status
Bednarik Award (Nation’s top defensive player)
Nagurski Award (Nation’s top defensive player)
Lombardi Award (Nation’s best linebacker or lineman)
*Associated Press First Team All-American
*Walter Camp First Team All-American
*Sporting News First Team All-American
*American Football Coaches’ Association First Team All-American
*Football Writers of America Association First Team All-American
9th place – Heisman Trophy voting
Walter Camp Award Finalist (National Player of the Year)
Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year
SB Nation Defensive Player of the Year and First Team All-American
CBS Sports Defensive Player of the Year and First Team All-American Defensive Player of the Year and First Team All-American
USA Today Sports First Team All-American
Sports Illustrated First Team All-American

[/ezcol_1half_end]’s Javier Morales, an award-winning professional sports journalist for more than 25 years who grew up observing Arizona athletics, offers his top defenders for the Wildcats in the Pac-10/12 era ( graphic)

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Bruschi, an All-Pac-10 selection as a sophomore, recorded 27.5 tackles for lost yardage that season. Wright has 28. Bruschi was also an Associated Press second-team All-American after his sophomore season.

The 1994 Fiesta Bowl was Bruschi’s 24th game as a Wildcat. His 27th game was three games into his junior season in 1994. He did not become a consensus All-American until his senior season.

For Wright to be ahead of Arizona’s fellow unanimous All-Americans with one or two seasons remaining, indicates he can become the most storied player in Wildcat history.

Is he Arizona’s best defensive player in program history? No. Not yet.

When picking Arizona’s All-Defensive Team last year, I started with Hunley and went from there. Hunley and Waldrop are Arizona’s most physically imposing players to wear the Arizona uniform. Hunley had 566 tackles in his career — 566 tackles — when on many occasions opposing offensive coordinators tried to steer clear of him.

Byron Evans and Chuck Cecil (not unanimous All-Americans but still a couple of Arizona’s top defenders) had unstoppable motors similar to Wright.

The Wildcats’ lineage at linebacker is so deep and impressive that Chris Singleton (the No. 8 pick overall in the 1990 NFL draft), Marcus Bell, Brant Boyer, Sean Harris, Lamonte Hunley (Ricky’s brother), Lance Briggs and Spencer Larsen often get overlooked.

If Wright becomes an another unanimous All-American and does the unthinkable — become a Heisman Trophy finalist — he becomes Arizona’s top defensive player in the program’s history. No question.

As it stands now, I will continue to take Ricky Hunley and go from there.


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[/ezcol_1half_end] publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He also has published articles for Bleacher Report and Lindy’s College Sports.


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