Flowers, Rodriguez praise defense

Arizona had a much improved defense in the win over NAU. There are many reasons why. Read on to find out why Marquis Flowers and Coach Rodriguez believe the defense has improved.

With the season in full swing, the players and coaches finally got a chance to see how the team did on the field. One group of players that got their first test on Friday night was the linebackers.

Senior linebacker Marquis Flowers has finally settled into his position after switching from the secondary when Head Coach Rich Rodriguez got to Arizona. He switched things up out of team necessity, but has found that the defense has some more depth this season.

"We have some great guys," Flowers said of the linebackers. "There's me, Scooby Wright, DeAndre Miller, Derek Turituri, and then you have Jake Fischer and Hank Hobson, so that's already two deep right there. We also have Sir Thomas Jackson who can come in and play, so we definitely have depth."

One of the players that Flowers got to see during the first game was Scooby Wright. The freshman was raved about all of fall camp and didn't disappoint during his first game.

"Scooby is always going to give 110-percent," he said. "Whether he knows it or not, he goes all out for every play. He's a great kid and a great teammate."

There were some concerns about whether Wright's speed may cause him to overlook the little things, but Flowers believes it is offset by the extra pressure it adds for the defense.

"It can have some negative effects, but not many," Flowers said. "When you are going that hard on every play, sometimes you make plays on accident. That always helps, but when you are playing hard it helps a lot.

"He has been working on his technique and it will get better as the year goes along, but he's just a freshman. Even if he messes up his technique, playing hard is going to mess something up for the other team and that is only going to help us all out."

Flowers wasn't the only one to notice how Wright was playing. Coach Rodriguez watched his development throughout the fall and felt comfortable enough to start him last Friday.

"Scooby weighs around 235 pounds," Rodriguez said of Wright. "He's got good strength, good instincts and is a fast learner. He's a tough guy.

"To play linebacker as a freshman, and there is a lot going on at that position in our scheme, and to start as a freshman in the first game says a lot about him."

Another player that has stood out on the defense has been true freshman Derrick Turituri. The linebacker was featured on third down plays as part of the SWAT package in the opener.

Flowers attributes that to the strength Turituri had coming into the program.

"The first thing I noticed about him was how big he is," Flowers said. "I always mess with him about how he never did any lower body drills in high school.

"His strength obviously stands out. He is ready to play at this level and he is another guy who just goes all out and plays."

With all the praise for the freshmen, it was Tra'mayne Bondurant who stole the show in the opener, intercepting two passes and returning one for a touchdown. Bondurant was rewarded for his efforts by being named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week.

"I was quick to congratulate Tra'Mayne," Flowers said. "I saw the work he put in during the off-season. He is definitely one of the guys we can count on out in the field.

"It was a great game for him this week. We all congratulated him, but he is back out here trying to stay focused on the next game."

Rodriguez knew that Bondurant would do well and tried to put him in a position to succeed. The junior has good instincts and is going to make plays wherever he is on the field.

"He loves playing the game, but some guys just have a feel and they recognize things quicker," Rodriguez said of Bondurant.

"All the best defensive players just recognize things quicker and have a way about shedding blocks or getting around blocks or just making the play. And that is what Tra'Mayne does.

"He's got good size but won't overwhelm you with his strength or speed. He's just got great instincts. He's probably one of the guys on our team with the best instincts."

Even though the defense played well, shutting out NAU in the opener, there is still work to be done. As practice wrapped up on Wednesday, Flowers still thought that the defense needed to get better.

"I can't jump to saying the defense is better just yet," he said. "I mean, turnovers are a big thing and we are always trying to get them and other opportunities each game.

"We started off okay, but we can still be better. We are just taking it one game at a time."

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