We know that Gilbert is going to be the starter, but not much beyond that in terms of the other guys getting reps here. Everything point to Gilbert putting together the best season of his career and he may be one of the more consistent defensive guys on the team, although he does not get a lot of recognition. We are putting Cody in the second spot, but don't feel comfortable with it. He did not do much in the spring, yet the others did not as well. Keep an eye on incoming freshman Marcus Griffin, as he is going to have an opportunity to play right away.
Arizona has a ton of options here. Melvin had a solid spring and the coaching staff spoke highly of how he progressed. Zellers may be a walk-on, but he is a tough kid and the coaching staff loves his attitude. Worthy struggled a bit and came in somewhat out of shape, but did nicely towards the end of camp. The wildcard here is how Fuimaono and Fanene will come in. If they are able to get in shape, we see no reason why they won't contribute right away.
This is an easy one. Allen did not come here to sit on the bench and he will be good enough to play right away. The hope is that Allen adds a pass rush presence that Arizona has not had in quite some time. Pettinato will almost certainly be a backup at one of the end positions and this is a big season for him. He needs to stay healthy and be able to at least provide some consistency at the position.
Arizona has the ability to move linebackers around, but we like Cobb here. We have been on record as saying that there are not many linebackers in the country that are going to be able to come in and have an immediate impact like Cobb will at Arizona. He fits the system perfectly, is physically ready to compete, and has a nasty streak to him. It would be a major upset if Cobb does not come in and become one of the better defensive players Arizona has right away.
Wright has been working more at middle linebacker because he has the experience to lead the unit as a whole now that Jake Fischer has left. In reality, Wright can play each of the linebacker spots, but we think this makes sense for him because of his ability to get sideline to sideline. Hobson is a player that has been quietly consistent and that is just fine at linebacker. We were not really sure where to put Smothers and based on what we heard in the spring, he needs to get better if he is going to legitimately contribute. Still, we put him in the middle because of his size and if he gets it together, this is probably his best place.
This linebacker spot is somewhat up for grabs and Bush-Loo and Turituri may get some looks here as well. We were really high on Miller coming out of high school and we just have a feeling he is going to put it together and earn the starting spot. Matthews is a guy that the coaching staff believes has a lot of potential and he is going to see the field in some capacity.
Spur: Tra'Mayne Bondurant/Anthony Lopez
There is not much to say here. You can make a case that Bondurant is the best player on this side of the ball and his playing time is not going anywhere. Lopez struggled last season and there are going to be guys on his tail, so it could be interesting to see who is able to get in behind Bondurant and give him some rest if need be.
Bandit: Will Parks/Jared TevisTevis is one of the smartest guys on defense, but eventually smarts give in to athletic ability and that is where Parks is right now. Not only does Parks understand what is happening on defense, but he also has the physical ability to make plays. Tevis is going to get plenty of playing time, but we have a feeling that Parks is ready to pass him up. Either way, Arizona is more than fine at this position.
People were hard on Shaquille Richardson before last season and he was able to put together a solid year. The hope is that a healthy McKnight can do the same and he is going to get every opportunity. Behind him is where the real questions start. We don't necessarily think Glover is good enough to get a lot of playing time, but we were not sure who to put in. Devon Brewer, Rodney Carr, and Kwesi Mashack are all going to have a chance to see the field this season and then you have a guy like Jarvis McCall, who may be ready to breakout.
Surprised? You shouldn't be. Denson is going to see the field his freshman year, but that is almost impossible at wide receiver. In fact, we would not be surprised if this is the type of deal where Denson is a corner for a year and then moves back to wide receiver. He has the physical tools to be a corner and there are some that believe it is his better position. Holiday is going to give it a major run and our guess is that both play plenty, as they might be the two most talented corners on the team.
Grandon is locked into the free safety spot and had a fantastic spring. We would be surprised if he did not have a big year and the coaching staff feels the same way. Last season, Jamar Allah was in the second spot here, but Price had a good spring and has more physical tools. He does not have the spot yet, but we believe he will eventually win it.