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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

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    PRO: Cason would be would be big boost in new position

    Here are the stats this season for sophomore cornerback Devin Ross: nine tackles, one sack, a 24-yard interception and two passes broken up. Not bad for someone who has yet to start a game.

    What does this have to do with Antoine Cason starting at safety for the injured Dominic Patrick on Saturday? Well, if Cason moves to safety, that would open up a spot at the cornerback position for, guess who? Ross.

    Arizona’s defense has not lived up to expectations this season. Wait, that’s putting it too mildly. The pass defense has been downright ugly, ranked 105th in the nation and ninth in the Pacific 10 Conference, giving up an average of 276.8 yards per game through the air. This unit needs some kind of boost badly.

    Ross has been exciting on kickoff returns this season, and it’s time he brings some of that excitement to the defense on a full-time basis. Add him to Cason, Wilrey Fontenot and Cam Nelson, and you have a very formidable backfield to combat the Oregon State passing attack, ranked 32nd nationally.

    If the Wildcats opt to keep Cason at cornerback and keep Ross on the bench, they will have to start either Brandon Tatum or Corey Hall at safety. The two have combined for 25 tackles, four passes broken up, no interceptions and no sacks. Ross’s playmaking is the better option for the defense.

    But can Cason adjust to a new position? The star of the Arizona defense has played almost his entire career at cornerback, and was first-team All-Pac-10 at the position last season. The answer is, he’s Antoine Cason. Of course he can adjust to play safety. Remember, UA head coach Mike Stoops was criticized for naming Cason the team’s punt returner for 2007, and what did Antoine do? How about a punt return for a touchdown in the second game of the season. He’s averaging 12.2 yards per return – second best in the Pac-10. So there’s no reason to believe he can’t pull off the same magic playing at safety.

    If Cason is the same old Cason at safety, and Ross lives up to the hype in a starting role, the Wildcats’ defense will be a whole lot better. And that’s something the team needs if it wants to even sniff a bowl berth.

    -Corey Romberg
    sports writer

    CON: Start the youth development, start a safety

    It may be comforting for the Arizona football team to know that its star cornerback is willing to play free safety in place of the injured Dominic Patrick, on top of his other new duty as punt
    returner.

    But the possibility of playing Antoine Cason at the position until Patrick comes back really doesn’t make much sense.

    Cason has started every single game at cornerback since he arrived as a true freshman in 2004. If you do the math, that’s 39 consecutive starts.

    So why stop that trend now?

    The two players behind Patrick on the depth chart, Corey Hall and Brandon Tatum, are both sophomores. If anything, the Arizona football team should start to develop those young players to possibly start in 2008.

    With eight seniors departing this year, getting the underclassmen real-life, in-game experience can be extremely useful in building a successful defense for the future.

    In five games this season, Hall has 18 tackles, 1.5 tackles for a loss and two pass breakups. Tatum, in three games, has seven tackles and two pass breakups.

    The versatile Cason could probably very easily put up similar, if not better, numbers at the position. The safety position is supposed to be the most hard-hitting position on defense, and Cason certainly fits that description, even winning his high school’s “”Hit of the Year”” award in 2002.

    Cason said he played safety in pee-wee football and a little bit in high school. While he would probably adjust to the position smoothly, the inexperience is not very affirming.

    His backup, Devin Ross, would surely cover his ground opposite Wilrey Fontenot, and he looked impressive last week with his 24-yard interception return.

    But it still seems useless for Cason to change positions so late in his collegiate career.

    Cason is one of the best, if not the best, boundary corners in the country. If he would have left Arizona after last season, he faced a very possible scenario of being selected in the first round of the NFL draft.

    So utilize him to the fullest extent – and keep him at corner.

    -Mike Ritter
    assistant sports editor

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