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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona football notes: Wildcats plagued with injuries, but Tevis recovers

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Larry Hogan / Arizona Daily Wildcat

Entering the season, Arizona’s lack of depth on the defensive line was an issue. Now, because of injuries, it’s even worse.

Dominique Austin, a starter for most of the year, is out for the season, and two-way player Taimi Tutogi has been banged up lately.

But the man who filled that role, sophomore Reggie Gilbert, had to battle through injuries of his own this season before returning and making an impact.

“He’s been pretty consistent for the most part when he’s been healthy,” Rodriguez said. “Thankfully for us he’s stayed healthier.”

Gilbert fractured the lower lumbar in his back during spring camp, which also limited him during the fall.

“We thought ‘Boy, we got to get this guy healthy,’” Rodriguez said about his first impressions of Gilbert. “He’s recently been healthier … but he’s toughed it out, he’s a good football player.”

Gilbert said he’s only been 100 percent for a minute this season but that’s just the nature of football.

“Everybody gets banged up all the time,” Gilbert said. “I’m banged up, so are all my teammates. We’re just out here, keep straining, keep pushing, fighting through it.”

The Arizona pass rush has struggled this season, sacking the quarterback 15 times, which ties the team for 88th nationally. But compared to the 10 sacks the Wildcats had a year ago, the rush has been considerably better and Gilbert is one reason for that.

The 6-foot-3, 254 pound sophomore is second on the team with 3.5 sacks, and he’s only started five games this season as Austin initially held the role.

“He’s an athletic guy and he has good size, he’s got good strength,” Rodriguez said. “He’s a very coachable guy too. [Defensive line] coach [Bill] Kirelawich really likes him from a technique standpoint. He’s very, very intelligent.

“Reggie’s a guy that we need a lot of production from.”

With Arizona going against a freshman quarterback Saturday in Utah’s Travis Wilson, Gilbert will need to produce some pressure to help out the reeling defense.

“Right now I’m just doing my job, my part of the defense,” Gilbert said, “trying to contribute as much as possible right now ‘til those guys get back.”

The recovering Tevis

Safety Jared Tevis was a star on the Arizona defense over the first five games, but a gruesome ankle injury early in the Oregon State game sidelined the sophomore for two games.

Now he’s returned, starting three straight, though Tevis said he’s still working his way back to full strength.

“I’m still getting to 100 percent,” Tevis said. “I mean I still can make a lot more plays than I’ve been making so I’m just trying to improve every week.”

He said he can’t use the injury as an excuse, though, and just has to continue playing.

Going into the Oregon State game, Tevis was second on the team with 38 total tackles, including two for a loss, and a team-high two interceptions.

Since returning in the USC game three weeks ago, Tevis has made just 10 total tackles and his four last weekend against Colorado was his high since recovering.

Rodriguez said Tevis is back in form, but that he was still feeling the injury when he returned against the Trojans.

“I don’t think he was the first week,” Rodriguez said. “In fact I know he was still bothered by it a little bit, but he’s such a tough guy. I think he was better last week and even better this week.”

The useless stat

With such a fast paced offense, Arizona rarely wins the time of possession battle. Neither does Oregon, and when a reporter asked head coach Chip Kelly about it in a Tuesday press conference, his answer was straightforward.

“We don’t look at that stat,” Kelly said. “Time of possession means nothing to this operation.”

Last week Arizona showed just how misleading the stat could be.

Colorado controlled the ball for 41:48 of the game, yet the Wildcats still dominated on the scoreboard 56-31.

“It wasn’t a big deal last Saturday,” Rodriguez said. “Even though it seemed like they had the ball forever. I think the more important [stat] to us is the number of possessions.”

Utah’s Kyle Whittingham doesn’t have the same outlook on time of possession or offensive speed, but he can agree on one thing — the importance of possessions.

“That is probably going to be as big a factor as anything – being able to move the chains, make first downs, possess the football and keep their offense on the sidelines,” said Whittingham, according to Utah’s weekly press release.

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