Arizona has been known as a relatively solid defensive team since the arrival of head coach Mike Stoops several years ago, but heading into 2010 there are going to be a lot of new faces on the field to start the season. It will be up to the returning veterans to help guide their inexperienced teammates through the correct path in order to put together a successful campaign.
One of the more vital pieces is cornerback Trevin Wade.
As a sophomore last season, Wade had a breakout campaign where he picked off five passes and was a menace for opposing quarterbacks and wide receivers to deal with. On top of his five interceptions, Wade also compiled 53 tackles, broke up nine passes, one tackle for loss and a forced fumble.
Wade was easily the best player in the secondary a season ago, but teams will be much more prepared for him heading into his junior campaign. Wade has shown the ability to shut down his half of the field, but will have to step his game up this season as teams are certain to be better prepared.
Wade has built up a name for himself on the national level as well. He earned his way onto the preseason Nagurski watch list which is awarded to the top defensive player in the country, an award won in the past by players like Ndamukong Suh, Elvis Dumervil, Terrell Suggs, Warren Sapp and UA's own Rob Waldrop.
It will take a lot of work for Wade to exceed, or even match his performance as a sophomore. He will be working with at least two new starters in the secondary and three new linebackers in the front-seven.
Wade will also have to deal with a conference that should be better at the quarterback position. The only significant losses are Sean Canfield of Oregon State and Jeremiah Masoli of Oregon, but returning are passers like Andrew Luck, Matt Barkley and Jake Locker – all of which should show improvement in the upcoming season.
On top of that, the majority of the top wideouts are returning. Out of the top-20 players in receptions in the Pac-10, only five were seniors. In a pass-happy conference, all the experience returning will make things tough for Wade to have a repeat performance.
But Wade isn't the type to shy away from anything. He wasn't highly rated coming out of high school yet his worked his way into one of the best defensive backs in the country in just two years. He has displayed the type of effort and determination needed from a cornerback that wants to play at the next level, so it shouldn't be a surprise if he emerges as the best cornerback in the conference (if he isn't that already).
Wade holds the key to a lot of the Wildcats success in 2010. If he continues to dominate his side of the field, his teammates will feed off of that and the defense will thrive. The defense is a bit of a question mark at this point, but having a cornerback like Wade should make life a lot easier for those around him.
Wade important to success
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