Arizona's defense was inconsistent on Saturday, but had its fair share of bright spots. Read on to see which players shined on Saturday and which showed room for improvement.
FT. HUACHUCA, Ariz. -
The defense began the night with a three and out against the first offense, and while it did not keep that momentum for the entire night, it more than held its own against Arizona
Robert Golden has emerged as the unit's vocal leader, as he can often be heard firing up his teammates or mixing it up with the offense. To his credit, Golden brings the wood every down. He really holds his own in run defense and is not challenged very much down the field due to his coverage skills.
Golden's safety counter part Marquis Flowers is not quite as advanced in pass coverage, but has shown no reluctance to come up in the run game and deliver a blow.
It seems that on any given play that Golden and Flowers are right in the thick of things making plays, and if Flowers can continue to progress in coverage, the UA secondary will be just fine.
It was an up and down day for Trevin Wade, however on the plus side, he did not give up any deep balls. He made a nice play on a jump ball intended for Austin Hill, but struggled getting his hips turned around on shorter patterns and thus was beat on several patterns throughout the scrimmage. As he improves his footwork and his technique, Wade will limit the amount of completions on his side of the field.
It was a quiet night from Jonathan McKnight and Shaquille Richardson, but that was due in large to their ability to lock down their man in one-on-one situation. As the two add strength and experience, they will eventually form one of the best corner back duos in the conference.
Moving inside, Paul Vassallo continues to anchor the defense and seems to be the leader of the defense from a strategic standpoint. He's always getting his players in position and is always in the right spot himself, which allows him to be involved on the majority of plays as well. His tackling was a little sloppy Saturday, but as UA fans found out last year, Vassallo is one of the more reliable tacklers on the team.
Derek Earls had what may have been the play of the day, when he caught a ball that was deflected off a receiver and two defenders before he came down with it. As solid as Vassallo is in the run game, Earls is equally as effective in the passing game.
Newcomers David Lopez, Rob Hankins, and Hank Hobson were pretty quiet on Saturday, but as they continue to learn the schemes of the defense they should prove capable of contributing throughout the season.
The defense line was very active throughout the entire scrimmage, as players from the first two units recorded sacks in every series for the defense.
The energy of Mohammed Usman and C.J. Parish is infectious for the rest of the defensive line. They don't always get to the quarterback, but you can be sure that they'll wear down the opposing offensive line throughout the game with their motors.
Sione Tuihalamaka recorded a sack as well, and he should combine with Justin Washington in the interior to make lives difficult for the opponent's running game. The more space the two can occupy the better as the new linebackers continue to learn and progress.
Overall, the defense showcased the ability to make plays when necessary, as they were especially tough in short yardage situations and third downs. With experienced players at each position, the defense should be a reliable unit and should keep Arizona competitive in most games.