Arizona Wildcats Defense: A Midseason Report Card

Tom PhillipsCorrespondent IOctober 22, 2009

Arizona's defense this year was supposed to be the rock of the team while the offense was going under a transitional stage.

It's funny how the roles of the team seem to have reversed so quickly.

Nick Foles seems to have reversed Arizona's fortunes on both sides of the ball. Since Foles has stepped in, Arizona has given up at least 32 points a game, before Foles they were giving up 17 points a game.

While the Wildcats have been winning, it is important to see improvement on the defensive front. This will need to happen if Arizona plans on winning during the final four games, the roughest part of their schedule.


Defensive Line: B-

While the defensive line has done a good job about stopping some of the big name runners in the conference, the team has a lack of a pass rush.

Arizona has only allowed a rusher to go over 100 yards twice this season. Impressive considering they have already faced some of the top rushers in the conference.

The team's passing defense blatantly has become the team's weakness. This became obvious when Stanford had all day to throw the ball and Arizona gave up almost 600 yards of total offense.

The injury bug has a little bit to do with this as All-Pac 10 defensive end Brooks Reed has been little used the past three games. Defensive tackle Earl Mitchell also got hurt in a freak accident but it seems that he is over injury.

With Reed hurt, Ricky Elmore has been the most effective pass rusher in his place with five and a half sacks. This makes up over a third of Arizona's 14 sacks.


Linebackers: C+

The Cats start three senior linebackers who get the majority of the playing time.

Considering this fact, the linebackers still base their play on instinct and speed. They struggle in coverage with short routes. A lot of the big passing plays that are made are yards after the catch over the middle. Stanford threw to their tight ends until their hands hurt last week.

In the rushing game the linebackers are doing their jobs of filling gaps and making sure big runs are few and far between.

The best of the bunch has to be Vuna Tuihalamaka. Tuihalamaka leads the team in tackles and is the biggest playmaker of them all. He almost always seems to be in on every play. It was his personal foul on third down that continued Washington's drive late in the fourth quarter before the "Immaculate Deflection".

The player who has stepped up has been linebacker Corey Hall who plays when the Cats use five defensive backs. Hall has been effective in coverage and is third on the team in sacks with two.


Secondary: B

Arizona started off lights out in the secondary. Anytime they needed a stop the secondary was there.

Trevin Wade is the playmaker in the secondary. In the first four games, Wade had four interceptions in four games and had the game-saving pass breakup against Stanford.

Devin Ross has barely had the ball his way, otherwise he might have more than his one interception. The safeties have been solid but if there is a weak spot in the secondary it is the safeties.

Then when Arizona started throwing the ball successfully, so did the opponents. Oregon State and Stanford both had great success throwing the ball on Arizona.

A lot of the Cats' problems seem to be on the short routes—five to eight yards. This was obvious when JaQuizz Rodgers was more effective as a receiver than a rusher.

Stanford seemingly could do whatever it wanted to do passing the ball. A lot of this could be because of the Cats stacking the eight or nine in the box to stop Toby Gerhart. The problem does persist though for Arizona.