The defensive side of the ball is in the process of receiving a complete overhaul with the arrival of the new coaching staff at Arizona. The Wildcats will transition from a 4-3 scheme that they ran under Mike Stoops' staff to a 3-3-5 under new defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel.
There are a handful of players that could benefit significantly from the switch. The defense emphasizes speed just like the offense does under Rich Rodriguez. With many athletic players on the defensive side of the ball, there are numerous candidates who could take their respective games to the next level under coaching staff.
Perhaps the player could reap the most benefits was one of the surprise contributors from last year's squad in Tra'Mayne Bondurant. The defensive back/linebacker hybrid is the type of player that can play the bandit position in the 3-3-5. As displayed last season, Bondurant possesses an impressive combination of both athleticism and strength and was one of UA's most productive players on the defensive side of the ball a year ago.
A player that many thought would redshirt his first season on campus, Bondurant ended up being one of the few bright spots on defense, finishing the 2011 campaign with 45 total tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss (including one sack), one interception (which was returned for a touchdown), and three forced fumbles.
Bondurant did all of this while playing mostly the linebacker and nickel roles in the 4-3 scheme. In the 3-3-5, he could excel even more given that bandit position is something that suits his skill-set perfectly. While it is very similar to the role he filled a season ago, the scheme as a whole is a better fit for what Bondurant will do.
He will likely line up in various places on the field and will be asked to do damage behind the line of scrimmage, in coverage and in running situations. As displayed as a true freshman, Bondurant can do all three and if he grasps the defense as quickly as he learned the scheme last season, Bondurant could prove to be one of the most versatile defensive players in the Pac-12.
There aren't any guarantees in the game of football, but Bondurant is the closest thing to one that Arizona has on the defensive side of the ball. His ability to do an array of things on the field is certainly going to be attractive to the coaching staff and it will do whatever it can to maximize Bondurant's potential.
Bondurant is one of the few holdovers on defense that fits the Rodriguez/Casteel system nearly perfectly and there is a chance that Arizona fans have only seen the tip of the iceberg when it comes to his potential. Assuming the staff and Bondurant are on the same page, he could become one of the most improved players in the conference.
With a somewhat depleted secondary, a need at linebacker, and various questions on the defensive side of the ball, Bondurant should prove to be the most important player to the Wildcats' defense in 2012.
Player profile: Tra'Mayne Bondurant
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