Spring Preview: A Look at the Defense

The young Arizona Wildcat defense showed a ton of promise and even more improvement under the direction of first year head coach Mike Stoops and first year defensive coordinator Mark Stoops in 2004.

The Cats lost a couple of key contributors that will need to be replaced. The general consensus is that the Cats have a ton of talent that red shirted or played sparingly last year to with a top 15 national recruiting class full of potential impact defensive players.

PPG: 25
YPG: 379.36

Pac-10 Ranks:
Scoring: 6th
Rushing: 6th
Passing: 10th
Total: 8th

National Ranks:
Scoring: 55th
Rushing: 30th
Passing: 101st
Total: 61st

BIGGEST STORY: The Cats defense's glaring weakness in 2004 was defensive line play, especially at the defensive end spot. The Cats will absolutely have to have improvement in pressuring the opposing quarterbacks this year, without using various blitz packages. Seniors Marcus Smith and Copeland Bryan both must show much more tenacity and attitude if they want to keep their jobs. RS freshman Jonathan Turner is finally healthy and will definitely push for Bryan's spot.

TOUGHEST BATTLE: Although the defensive line battles will be entertaining and important, the battles for the linebacker spots should be awesome. RS sophomore Dane Krogstad and senior Randy Sims and RS junior John McKinney all return with experience but the future of the position has not been seen yet. Ronnie Palmer, Brandon Lopez and James Alford all red shirted a year ago and by all accounts, Lopez will look to nail down the starting WILL spot. Palmer could nail the MIKE spot with Krogstad holding his SAM spot. The reappearance of sophomore Spencer Larsen from his church mission only intensifies the battles, especially with Larsen returning to Tucson in such good shape.

BIGGEST LOSS: Senior linebacker Kirk Johnson and Senior safety Tony Wingate developed into consistent performers but the Cats will miss the leadership and experience of departing tackle Carlos Williams. Coach Tui hopes to plug in incoming JUCO All-American Byron Smith.

KEEP AN EYE ON: Safety Dominic Patrick, DT Byron Smith and DE Jonathan Turner. The coaches all rave about the abilities of these three guys. In 2004 Patrick shows glimpses of what he can do and Turner and Smith both come very highly thought of but neither played a down of football last year for different reasons.

REDSHIRTS TO REMEMBER: DT Lawrence Ball and Safety Michael Klyce. Both players came in to Tucson off the radar but both could be key contributors this coming year, especially Ball for depth purposes.

NEEDS TO STEP UP: Senior DE Marcus Smith. Smith has the body and the abilities to be an All-American but does he have the tenacity and attitude? DE coach Joe Robinson and the Stoops brothers need to get Smith to play pissed off and with more of a purpose.

LACK OF EXPERIENCE: Even though the Cats will have a ton of talent at the linebacker spot, much of talent is very raw and inexperienced. Spencer Larsen needs to step right in and be a leader of the group as he is all of a sudden an elder statesman. If Senior Sean Jones can get his head on straight the linebacking corps would be much better off.

WISH YOU WERE HERE: The biggest key to the defense was getting all of the defensive JUCOs on campus and that is done. Linebacker Adrian McCovy would sure be a sight for sore eyes though. He could jump up and steal a starting spot if he was on campus already.

CatTracks.net spring ball depth chart:

DE Marcus Smith
DT Lionel Dotson
DT Byron Smith
DE Copeland Bryan
WLB Brandon Lopez or John McKinney or James Alford
MLB Spencer Larsen or Randy Sims or Ronnie Palmer
SLB Dane Krogstad
CB Wilrey Fontenot
SS Lamon Means
FS Dominic Patrick
CB Antoine Cason

Injury Notes

FS Darrell Brooks, DT Paul Phillip and LB Sean Jones are all out or limited for Spring Drills. Secondary transfer Michael Johnson may also be out or slowed due to injury.

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