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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Slick Rick

Most of the attention the UA football team’s defense receives centers on the linebacking corp or defensive backs. However, it’s one of the squad’s defensive linemen who might have made the biggest impact on the unit so far this season.

Defensive end Ricky Elmore has been a force to be reckoned with during the Wildcats’ 2009 campaign. Just ask Washington State. The 6-foot-5, 250-pound junior recorded two sacks Saturday during Arizona’s first five plays on defense, and he nearly had a third one during that span as well.

With those two sacks against the Cougars, Elmore pushed his total to 7.5 sacks on the season — a mark good enough for second place in the Pacific 10 Conference and ninth place nationally.

“”He’s always had plays where it’s like, ‘Oh my gosh,’ and sometimes he has plays where it’s like, ‘What’s he thinking?'”” said defensive ends coach Jeff Hammerschmidt. “”At times he’ll have flashes of being able to do things better, and the majority of the time now he’s just been more consistent. He’s doing the right thing and really doing a great job.””

But it wasn’t always that way. Elmore struggled to play at a high level on a regular basis and in an up-and-down sophomore season. Hammerschmidt said Elmore “”probably used to guess a little bit”” on how he should approach certain plays, but he does a much better job of anticipating plays and “”letting things come to him”” this season.

During fellow defensive end Brooks Reed’s absence due to an ankle injury during the middle part of this season, Elmore noticeably took his game — and leadership qualities — to another level.

“”I’ve always tried to carry myself as someone people can look up to, a role model or something like that,”” Elmore said. “”When I was younger in high school we went through a mentor program, so I kind of know what that’s like. I try to set that up for kids younger than me so our coaches don’t have to deal with problems.””

The only problem people have when dealing with Elmore is how to stop him. He has a reputation for relentlessly pursuing the opposing quarterbacks and never quitting on a play. Elmore’s hustle both during games and on the practice field has caught the attention of the UA coaching staff.

“”I think he’s starting to reach his potential as a player. I always knew he had more ability than he was showing,”” said UA head coach Mike Stoops. “”His concentration, his focus, his preparation; he’s just maturing. You don’t want just guys out there, you want guys that can make plays and I think Ricky is a much more confident player than he’s ever been.””

But what is he doing differently this season that’s helping him play so well?

“”I have no idea,”” Elmore said through a toothy grin. “”The only thing I try to do every game is just go 100 percent. More than likely, pass rush is 90 percent effort and 10 percent technique, so as long as you have that effort you’re going to get back there.””

Unfortunately for Arizona’s opposition, that 100 percent effort isn’t going away anytime soon. In fact, the only thing Elmore had last season that’s missing this time around is his hairdo. Last year, Elmore sported a leopard-spot-like dye job. This year, he’s dye free. However, if he keeps up his current rate of production Hammerschmidt said the “”funky hair”” could make a comeback.

“”If he gets enough sacks I’ll probably start dying my hair like he did,”” Hammerschmidt said with a chuckle. “”But he’s really come a long way just in my time being here. It’s not so much me as it is him. He’s really focused and playing hard and being a leader on the field, and I think that’s great.””

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