State of the Roster: Defensive End

WildcatAuthority.com continues its look at the current state of the football roster. Read on to see what Arizona will have at defensive end, who could emerge, and more.

Heading into the offseason, the Arizona Wildcats are facing a lot of questions on the defensive side of the ball. The good news is that they have Jeff Casteel – regarded as one of the nation's top defensive coordinators – leading the way.

Casteel will install a new system that will include several different schemes and formations, so it should take a while for the players to get acclimated with the change in philosophy.

The defensive line is going to have a lot of eyes looking in its direction over the next 6 months. One of the biggest issues on the defensive side of the ball last season, the line must make serious strides before the season starts if the defense wants to experience a successful season.

The improvement at the defensive end position is crucial. Last year, UA's starters on the outside were a player who had very little college experience and another who had switched positions numerous times, but hardly played in prior seasons. Each player performed inconsistently, but given the circumstances they were dealt, their lack of consistency was understandable, if not expected.

The position will feature two brand new starters, but just who those players are remains up in the air. There is some untapped potential at the position, but the group is still wet behind the ears. The youth will be thrown to the fire and it should be interesting to see who comes out a starter.

One player returning from last year who is looking to start is Dan Pettinato. As a redshirt freshman, Pettinato collected 16 total tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and one sack in limited action. Pettinato looked more comfortable as the season progressed, but it's hard to judge just how much he grew with how sparingly he played.

Lamar De Rego is another player that will look to battle for time. As a junior, De Rego compiled eight tackles – one for loss – in limited playing time. He is a big body that has a physical side to his game, so he could be a player to watch this offseason.

For now, Pettinato and De Rego are the only two defensive ends returning with any game experience. Behind them are a group of redshirt freshmen and incoming recruits.

Dame N'Diaye is an interesting candidate. As a senior in high school in 2011, N'Diaye blossomed despite being extremely raw and dazzled the previous staff with his natural ability. He spent his first year on campus as a redshirt getting physically prepared for the college game. At 6-foot-4, 220-pounds as a freshman, N'Diaye had some room to add muscle and if he continues to work, he could battle for a job early.

Reggie Gilbert also returns after redshirting his first year on campus. The product from Laveen came in with a similar build to N'Diaye and utilized his first year on campus to get into better physical shape as well.

It's difficult to decipher who is at an advantage between Gilbert and N'Diaye, but we should start learning a lot about them in the coming months.

There is also a chance that incoming freshmen Dylan Cozens and Kyle Kelley could battle for playing time. Cozens, a Scottsdale Chaparral product, and Kelley, a signee from Irvine (Calif.) Woodbridge, could both add some muscle, but playing time is not out of the question for the pair of soon-to-be true freshmen.

Arizona only returns four players at defensive end from last year's roster and barring any position changes, the Wildcats will enter spring ball lacking depth there. It could be the perfect chance for newcomers Kelley and Cozens to make an impact, but that potential opportunity also speaks to the concern surrounding the position. UA looks like it is solid for the future, but the present is a little up in the air at this point in time.


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