Arizona is in the middle of spring practice and there is already movement along the depth chart. The defensive side of the ball is undergoing a couple of changes due to players departing and injuries and one position looking to regroup after a setback is safety.
It appeared as if UA was going to start Adam Hall and Marquis Flowers at the position but an ACL injury to Hall will cause him to miss – at the very least – significant playing time at the start of the season.
This has left head coach Mike Stoops and his staff scrambling. There will be some shifting around by players and it could open the door for some of the younger players to get a chance at playing time.
Robert Golden was expected to start at one cornerback, but the injury to Hall forces Golden back to safety – a position he played as a sophomore.
Golden was very productive at cornerback last season, but his transition back to safety will be closely monitored. In 2009, Golden collected two interceptions 41 tackles and broke up a pass. His versatility and experience at both corner and safety could be a valuable tool for the Arizona defensive staff to use.
Golden's ability to tackle should prove key for UA's defense. He was a good fit there a couple of years back and hopes to fill the void left by the two departed seniors from the 2010 team.
Flowers looks to start for the first time in college and brings a ton of potential with him. Early in spring ball, Flowers has shown the ability to lay the wood on the opposition. Like Golden, Flowers has the athleticism to play close to the line or back in coverage, so that will serve him well as he will likely be utilized all over the field.
As a freshman, Flowers played mostly on special teams and in spot duty at safety. He collected eight total tackles.
Josh Robbins could find himself in the rotation early in the season due to Hall's injury. A year ago, Robbins redshirted but has played very well in spring ball thus far and could be a player to look out for when fall camp arrives.
Robbins looks more physically imposing than he did last offseason and at 6-foot-3, he has prototypical safety size. The staff likes Robbins' potential and as he continues to grow as a player his role should expand.
Mark Watley could see the field in 2011. After struggling to earn playing time for the last couple of seasons, Watley could get a chance to prove his value this season. The staff has been high on Watley's potential for quite some time and with the depletion at safety, Watley has his best chance yet to make an impact on the field.
There is also the possibility that incoming freshman Dominique Petties could be called upon to play safety. Most freshmen are asked to redshirt for obvious reasons, but given Arizona's situation, Petties may not be given that luxury.
Petties stood at 6-foot-1, 210-pounds in high school and when he is able to work with strength and conditioning coach Corey Edmond upon arrival, Petties should be able to get into even better physical shape. He already has the build of a college safety and some added muscle and strength could go a long way.
There is talent at safety, but Hall's injury exposes a potential issue with depth at the position. If the rest of the squad can stay relatively healthy, Arizona should be fine at safety.
Evaluating the Roster: Safety
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