Scouting Arizona's Defense

SCPlayBook's Kevin Carden takes an indepth look at the Arizona defense including strengths and weaknesses.

Defensive Line

The Wildcats have a very talented group of defensive linemen but haven't lived up to the high expectations so far this season. The Wildcats top two performers on the line have been Lionel Dotson and Jason Parker.

Jason Parker leads all Arizona linemen with 25 tackles. The senior defensive end also has 4.5 tackles for loss and is second on the team with 3 sacks.

Defensive tackle Lionel Dotson is the team leader with 3.5 sacks and also has 4.5 tackles for loss.

Senior defensive end Louis Holmes led the Wildcats lineman with 36 tackles in 2006, but has had a disappointing senior season. Holmes, who was the top junior college defensive linemen in 2005 hasn't recorded a sack in 2007.

Arizona has had trouble putting pressure on opposing quarterback's and is last in the Pac-10 with just 12 sacks in 2007. The match up between the under achieving Arizona defensive line and the injury plagued USC offensive line should be interesting to watch.

Linebackers

The Wildcats have a good group of linebackers led by senior Spencer Larsen. Larsen lead Arizona with 89 tackles in 2006 and was a second-team All-Pac-10 selection. The weak-side linebacker has been a three year starter and was named a team captain this season. Larsen leads the team with 49 tackles and has 2 tackles for loss so far in 2007.

Playing alongside Larsen at linebacker are senior Dane Krogstad and junior Ronnie Palmer. Krogstad is a solid strong-side linebacker that started six games for the Wildcats in 2006 and provides good veteran leadership on defense. Krogstad, a California native, recorded a season-high 11 tackles last year against USC.

Middle linebacker Ronnie Palmer has been solid against the run in 2007. The 6-2, 245 lb. linebacker is third on the team with 39 tackles.

The USC offensive line and running backs are banged up coming into Saturday's game at the Coliseum and with Mark Sanchez making his first career start, the Trojans need to establish the run early. If the Arizona linebackers can step up and stuff the run, that would put a lot of pressure on Mark Sanchez and the USC passing game.

Look for defensive coordinator Mark Stoops to play the linebackers tight to the line and blitz early to see if they can rattle USC quarterback Mark Sanchez.

Cornerbacks

Cornerbacks Antoine Cason and Wilfrey Fontenot are the strength of the Wildcats defense. Fontenot and Cason both have three years of experience as starters for Arizona.

Cornerback Antoine Cason, a Jim Thorpe Award finalist and candidate for the Ronnie Lott Trophy in 2006, is clearly the Wildcats best player on defense. Cason has 40 tackles, two interceptions, a sack and a forced fumble in 2007.

The Trojans will have to be aware of where Cason is on the field at all times. Last week against Oregon State he had a 60-yard interception return for a TD.

Opposite of Cason is senior Wilfrey Fontenot. While Fontenot isn't the same caliber player as Antoine Cason, he is still a very good cornerback. Fontenot has started 39 straight games for the Wildcats. On the year, Fontenot has 3 pass breakups and a interception.

The Trojans will try and avoid throwing towards Antoine Cason as much as possible on Saturday. As a result the 5-9, Wilfrey Fontenot will see a lot of balls thrown his way against USC.

Look for the Trojans to try and get Patrick Turner and David Ausberry in one-on-one situations with the undersized Fontenot and exploit his lack of size.

Safeties

At the safety position the Wildcats will start sophomore Cameron Nelson and senior Dominic Patrick. The safeties have been a weak spot on the Arizona defense in 2007. Strong safety Cameron Nelson has been adequate in run support recording 34 tackles but both Nelson and Patrick have been haven't looked good defending the pass.

The Wildcats rank seventh in pass defense in the Pac-10, so look for the Trojans to try and expose the Wildcats safeties in the passing game this Saturday.


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