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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Jonathan McKnight tears ACL, out for season

Gordon Gates
Gordon Bates / Arizona Daily Wildcat Jonathan McKnight speaks with a reporter after Arizona Wildcats Football practice at Rincon Vista on Monday, August 15th 2011.

Arizona sophomore starting cornerback Jonathan McKnight tore his ACL on Wednesday and head coach Mike Stoops said he will miss the entire 2011 season.

“It’s disappointing for Jonathan. He’s a terrific player and he’s had a great camp,” Stoops said after Thursday’s practice. “It’s just one of those things. I feel very disappointed and sad for him and for our team. He’s a great leader for us and he’s an outstanding football player for us but it’s just the way things are going right now.”

McKnight is the fifth Wildcat to tear his ACL since the end of last season — Jake Fischer, Greg Nwoko, Adam Hall and Willie Mobley are all rehabbing from the same injury. Like a few of his hampered teammates, McKnight’s ACL tear was nothing more than a freak injury that wasn’t induced by contact.

“He was just slowing down and it kind of came down on him,” described secondary coach Ryan Walters. “Nothing out of the ordinary happened, just a freak accident, man.”

Although Arizona is deep at cornerback with proven senior Trevin Wade and talented sophomore Shaquille Richardson, the injury couldn’t have come at a worse time for McKnight. The 5-foot-11, 175-pound River Ridge, La., product was playing the best football of his career — he was the only cornerback locked into a starting spot — after seeing action in all 13 games last season by way of special teams and spot duty at corner.

“His improvement from last year has been phenomenal,” Walters said. “All through spring he was competitive every play, definitely paid attention to detail, was very disciplined and that carried over into fall camp. He was playing lights out. He was arguably one of our best players on defense.”

Stoops said the true sophomore will use his redshirt year and return in the spring as a redshirt sophomore. While this is certainly a huge blow for the Wildcats and McKnight as a player, Walters, who dealt with knee injuries throughout his career at the University of Colorado, expects McKnight to remain positive and use the downtime to improve physically.

“Look at the bright side, he’s going to be a true sophomore so he’s got a redshirt year, he’s going to have a chance to get stronger and bigger and get that thing healthy going into next year,” Walters said. “I expect him to be better coming back. He’ll appreciate the game that much more and I’m expecting nothing but big things from him in his career.”

Richardson will become Arizona’s starting corner next to Wade, and the UA staff doesn’t expect a big drop-off without one of their top corners.

“These guys are very qualified players, they’ve proven that over all of last year and also Trevin’s played great football for us in the past,” Stoops said.

Despite an underwhelming 2010 season, Wade has proven his worth in the past, and looked like his old self at the Meet the Team scrimmage, intercepting quarterback Nick Foles twice.

When Wade was struggling last season, it was Richardson who stepped into the limelight. In his first career start, Richardson earned Pacific 10 Conference Defensive Player of the Week honors as he picked off two balls, broke up three passes and collected seven tackles against Washington State.

“We won’t see a huge drop off with Trevin and Shaquille playing corner, they’re both capable of being All-Pac-12 caliber players,” Walters said. “Shaq’s definitely got to step up. He’s capable of doing so. He’s a tremendous talent, a smart player. He’s just got to focus on the details and be competitive every play.”

Before the injury, Richardson was likely to play nickelback as Wade and McKnight manned the cornerback spots. But now with Richardson starting at corner, Jourdon Grandon will start at nickelback and freshman Cortez Johnson will assume a bigger role.

“He’s riding two deep now,” Walters said. “He’s as athletic as all get out and he’s very football savvy and he wants to be a great player and that goes a long way.”

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