Arizona's Top 5 Defensive Players During The Stoops Era
The Arizona Wildcats are becoming a force to be reckoned with in the Pac-10. Since 2004 the program has seen a major change, one that has given the Cats a chance win the Pac-10 title each and every year.
Just to recap: Here is what the rankings look like so far.
10. Earl Mitchell
9. Brooks Reed
8. Ronnie Palmer
7. Devin Ross
6. Lionel Dotson
And now for the top 5 players during the Mike Stoops Era. Enjoy!
5. Wilrey Fontenot
Fontenot was the unheralded cornerback who played opposite of Antonie Cason.
While teams shied away from Cason, they threw in Fontenot's direction. Fontenot and Cason formed one of the most feared cornerback duos in the Pac 10.
He started every game in his career at Arizona, notching 45 starts and played every down his first three seasons.
Fontenot didn't put up huge defensive numbers but picked off six passes while at Arizona.
Fontenot was drafted in the seventh round by the Atlanta Falcons in the 2008 NFL Draft and is currently on the practice squad for the Arizona Cardinals.
4. Michael Johnson
Michael Johnson joined the Arizona Wildcats as a junior college transfer before the 2005 season.
By the time he left he was known for being a ball-hawking safety who once grabbed three interceptions in a key a win against Oregon State.
In 21 games as a Wildcat, Johnson racked up 107 tackles and five interceptions. Johnson was voted second team All-Pac 10 his senior season.
Johnson was drafted in the seventh round of the 2007 NFL Draft by the New York Giants. He started at safety in the Giants Super Bowl win over the New England Patriots. He currently starts at safety for the Giants.
3. Copeland Bryan
Copeland Bryan's story is one of those feel-good stories that everyone loves to hear.
The defensive end walked-on to the team before eventually earning a scholarship and starting three games as a true freshman. He dealt with the Mackovic era. Then dealt with the two worst seasons of the Stoops regime. Earned a spot and plays in the NFL.
Bryan went through a lot while at Arizona but he was also a bright spot on teams that had little hope of winning. He and our next player are the only players on the list to not have played exclusively for Mike Stoops.
He finished his career with 14 sacks, including seven and a half his senior season.
Bryan was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Tennessee Titans in 2005 and currently plays for the Detroit Lions.
2. Spencer Larsen
Spencer Larsen is the only player on the list to play alongside two two-time First-Team All-Pac 10 conference players (Lance Briggs and our number one choice).
Yes you did read that right, Larsen played linebacker alongside Briggs his freshman season. Then went on a two-year Mormon mission in Chile before coming back to Arizona.
Larsen was a force for the Wildcats, flying around and throwing caution to the wind. He was the most reliable and counted upon player in the front seven all three seasons he played after returning to the team.
His senior season he lead the Pac 10 in tackles with 131 and earned First-Team All-Pac 10 honors for his effort.
Larsen was drafted in the sixth round of the 2008 NFL draft by the Denver Broncos. He was switched to fullback but has also played linebacker for the Broncos.
1. Antoine Cason
2007 Jim Thorpe Award winner. Consensus All-American cornerback.
No one else on the list even comes close to the awards that Cason received.
Cason was a little-known recruit and Mike Stoops main focus when he accepted the Arizona job. That turned out to be a good thing for Arizona fans.
He was the epitome of a shut-down corner. Teams made their game plan to avoid throwing the ball to his side of the field.
In his career he had 15 interceptions, returning three for touchdowns. His senior year he also had two punt returns for touchdowns., including the one to seal the upset over No. 2 Oregon.
Cason was drafted in the first round by the San Diego Chargers in the 2008 NFL Draft. He is in his second year as the team's third cornerback.