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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona’s Fischer ready to lead after missing 2011 with torn ACL

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Mike Christy
Mike Christy/ Arizona Daily Wildcat Football vs. ASU.

Entering the 2011 season, the Arizona football team had a lot of promise at the linebacker position.

With returning seniors Paul Vassallo and Derek Earls and junior Jake Fischer, the Wildcats knew they would have a stabilizing force manning the middle of the field. After all, the trio combined to garner 204 tackles, led by Vassallo’s 102, in 2010.

Having that group on the field would have alleviated the pressure in other areas on defense.

Then, in spring practice, Fischer tore his ACL and was lost for the season. The rest is history.

“Jake going down was quite the loss, especially at linebacker, bringing his ability to that position,” Vassallo said. “With him and Derek and I playing together, we developed a chemistry together. We always knew that if I messed up, one of those two would be there.”

Other factors contributed to a dismal season for the Wildcats — a tough schedule and injuries to other key defensive players such as defensive backs Adam Hall and Jonathan McKnight — but the hole left at the linebacker position by Fischer was the toughest to fill.

“(His injury) opened a big hole, we had to scramble and make things work,” Vassallo said. “It sucks to see a friend go down like that.”

Spring ball has only been going on for the last month or so, but head coach Rich Rodriguez said he can already see how important Fischer is to the UA’s success.

“He’s worked so hard, without question. Jake Fischer is going to be one of our leaders defensively and I can see why the coaching staff missed him so much last year,” Rodriguez said. “He’s a tough guy and he’s a football player and I’m sure that was a huge loss.”

In his sophomore season, the one before the injury, Fischer contributed 58 tackles, two sacks, two pass defended and one fumble recovery. Now that Fischer is, as he said after the first practice, back to 100 percent physically, he is ready to be the leader the Wildcats need.

“It feels like it’s been a very long time. I’m just excited to get back out here and start running around again,” Fischer said. “I’m going to try to be more of a leader, be one of the upperclassmen, you know, just get the young guys in there to watch film and everything. We’re trying to get back to where we were a couple years ago and further.”

Fischer’s commitment to making this season better than the last is exemplified by how the Oro Valley, Ariz., native chose to stay in Tucson over spring break and study film instead of traveling and “chasing girls,” like Rodriguez has said his players would likely to be doing.

Despite the seriousness of an ACL injury, Fischer does not to appear to have lost a step. Transfer linebacker Brian Wagner, the nation’s second-leading tackler a year ago while at Akron, will line up alongside Fischer in the newly installed 3-3-5 defense. Wagner said he is looking forward to playing with Fischer.

“If you ask anybody on the team, ‘Toughest dude?’ they’re going to say Jake Fischer. It’s been great getting to know him,” Wagner said. “He’s the leader of the defense; he knows exactly what he’s doing. He sets a really good example, so it’s been great working with him these past few months.”

Vassallo and Earls used up their eligibility, so now Fischer will have to become comfortable with a new batch of linebackers. But Vassallo isn’t worried.

“He’s very excited to get back out there and I know he’s feeling pretty healthy,” Vassallo said. “I think the year off made him very hungry and I expect to see him come back even better.”

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