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National Signing Day 2010: Arizona Wildcats Fill Defensive Holes with New Class

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 05:  Donald Horton Jr., #46 and Earl Mitchell #49 of the Arizona Wildcats celebrate after Mitchell sacked quarterback Matt Barkley #7 of the USC Trojans during the fourth quarter of the NCAA college football game at the Los Angeles Coliseum on December 5, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
Tom PhillipsCorrespondent IFebruary 3, 2010

When the season ended for the Arizona Wildcats, they were left with holes on the defensive side of the ball.

Both starting defensive tackles and all three starting linebackers were seniors, and the depth behind them was thin.

The depth chart could not even do a two-deep—that's how thin it was.

The backups at linebacker have barely seen the field except for special teams, and while the defensive tackles rotated, their experience isn't near where any fan should be comfortable with the position.

Luckily for Wildcat fans, Arizona did a great job in filling these holes.

At linebacker, the Wildcats brought in two JUCO players who are already enrolled in school and will be with the Cats for spring practice.

Derek Earls and Paul Vassallo are the two linebackers looking to get on the field in their first year with the Cats.

Earls was impressive in junior college, racking up over 100 tackles in both seasons, and will likely start for Arizona next year. Vassallo is an excellent blitzing linebacker, sacking the quarterback eight times his first season in junior college.

Vassallo is an interesting story. He walked on at Nevada before realizing that he could earn a Division I scholarship if he played at a JUCO. Turned out he was right.

On the high school front, Arizona was able to sneak into their rival's territory to grab a linebacker. The Cats went to Tempe to grab Kyle Benson, who likely will redshirt after having surgery to repair a torn ACL. Benson is looking to get on the field early and says one of his goals is to beat his hometown team, ASU, every year.

Something that makes any Wildcat fan smile.

At defensive tackle, the Wildcats got some big names and had to fight off other teams to get them.

Arizona went to the JUCO ranks once again, grabbing Willie Mobley, a star defensive tackle who originally went to Ohio State before going to junior college in California. Despite having not played a snap since high school, Mobley is likely to challenge for a staring spot once he steps on campus in May.

Another defensive tackle that comes in highly regarded is Kirifi Taula. Taula is one of the highest regarded defensive tackles on the West Coast, known for wreaking havoc on teams across California. He is likely to get solid playing time as a true freshman and may even push for a starting position in training camp.

Arizona had to fight off a late push for Taula by Washington, but a visit to Arizona this past weekend sealed the deal for the Wildcats.

While the class is not full of superstars like a USC or Florida, Mike Stoops and company did what they needed to do: Fill the holes in the roster and add solid depth.

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