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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona football notes: Pettinato takes on new role

Injuries haven’t been kind to Arizona in recent weeks. While the losses of defensive end Reggie Gilbert and defensive tackle Dominique Austin aren’t as noteworthy as some of the other key injuries, it’s still forced some changes on the line.

One guy who stepped in is sophomore Dan Pettinato, who was also plagued by injuries early in the season, but is now back in the rotation and taking on a new role.

Last season Pettinato started three games late in the year at defensive end, but with the shift to the 3-3-5 “odd stack” defense, Pettinato is fulfilling the role at defensive tackle.

“He’s a big tough guy and we needed some guys that can hold the point,” head coach Rich Rodriguez said. “He’s has been battling injuries all year and he’s healthy now and he’s done a really good job.

“He’s a young guy too, but he got to play quite a bit last year so [he] has some experience.”

Pettinato said that while the role could be considered less glamorous, it’s still just as significant to the defense.

“Every job on the D-line is just as important, especially compared to last year’s defense,” he said.

Another lineman taking advantage of the newly opened playing time is junior Justin Washington.

Washington was suspended during fall camp, but since being reinstated he has worked his way up the depth chart into the starting line-up.

“[Washington] has been doing really well,” Pettinato said. “Since we had a few guys get hurt he’s been filling in and he’s done a good job. He got a lot of playing time last week and I expect more from him.”

Rodriguez said that as long as does what he’s supposed to on the field, he’s earned a spot in the rotation.

Washington’s recent rise is in stark contrast to where he was just one or two months ago, and it also serves another purpose: keeping true freshman Kyle Kelley, one of the UA’s highest rated 2012 recruits redshirted.

“[Kelley] is a good football player,” Rodriguez said. “We’ve been traveling him and he’s close to being ready and he could probably play. But at this point we have some more experience in front of him, and we’re trying to save his redshirt … but there is still a lot of football left this year.”

Rodriguez said that there is enough experience and talent in front of him that he’s not needed at the moment as a true freshman. But with Gilbert and Austin already hurt, the depth on the line is getting perilously thin.

With the first bye week of the season, and the team so banged up, a lot of the true freshmen are getting added reps in practice.

Rodriguez said that’s not entirely due to a greater plan though.

“We got to by choice because we got about 20 guys who aren’t practicing,” Rodriguez said. “Just to have enough bodies to practice you got have the freshmen get a lot of reps.”

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