Arizona’s defense has made significant progress in year one under new coordinator Marcel Yates and as the team prepares to face Washington State on Saturday afternoon, Yates understands the challenges that lie ahead against the Cougar’s fast paced spread offense.
“They like to space things out,” Yates said. “You’re going to see that their players really spread out and we have to be ready. Stanford was more in the box and more of a power run game, so Washington State is really different.
“They’re all about passing the ball, having 10 or 20 personnel out there. The way they play is in space. You won’t see as many lineman against Washington State, you’ll see more DBs than anything because of that space.”
Facing arguably the best quarterback in the conference, Yates feels containing Luke Falk early on is crucial to winning the game.
“Our players have to be able to tackle in space,” he said. “We have to understand that Luke Falk can make every throw on the football field and he’s an NFL guy. With that being said, he’s a guy that kind of gets us rolling.”
Falk isn’t the only player that concerns Yates.
“Their receivers are really good and they make plays,” Yates said. “They make a lot of plays after the catch so when they catch the ball, you want to contain those guys as fast as possible. We want very little yardage after the catch.”
While the numbers lack signs of improvement, Arizona’s defense continues to exemplify a new level of aggression and Yates is pleased with the progress.
“We’ve worked on a lot of things and I think that’s progress right there,” he said. “The numbers may not show it, but I feel that each week we are getting better as a defense. I see improvement in our tackling and guys understanding what we’re trying to do.
“Last week against Stanford I think was the one game that we had the least amount of explosive plays. When you aren’t allowing a run over 12 yards or a pass over 16 yards, that’s where you see the improvement. The problem is you just don’t see the wins behind it.”