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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Rich Rod learns he can lean on Scooby Wright

Kyle Hansen

Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright (33) tackles UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley (17) just short of the endzone in the second quarter of Arizona’s 17-7 loss to UCLA at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., on Saturday. Wright has emerged as the leader of Arizona’s defense during his sophomore season.

At 6:30 a.m. on Monday, Arizona football head coach Rich Rodriguez came to work out and saw sophomore linebacker Scooby Wright there by himself.

Rodriguez wasn’t surprised to see the two-time reigning Pac-12 Conference Defensive Player of the Week.

“He doesn’t have to be there, but that’s Scooby being Scooby,” Rodriguez said. 

Naturally, Wright downplayed the significance of him being there early, though.

“There’s always guys in the weight room,” Wright said. “I just get in there early and get it done.”

Senior defensive lineman Reggie Gilbert said Wright’s dedication definitely inspires the rest of the team. He said the Wildcats see other players working out and it leads them to do the same.

“I love Scooby,” Gilbert said. “He’s a great teammate, a great friend – just a great person.”

While the offense has garnered most of the headlines, Wright has been vital in leading No. 19/21 Arizona to a 6-2 start. Wright leads the Pac-12 in tackles (97) and forced fumbles (five) and is second in sacks (12) and tackles for loss (18.5).

“He’s been our most consistent football player, period,” Rodriguez said. “I’ve probably said that in every game.”

Last week in the Wildcats’ 17-7 loss at No. 18 UCLA, Wright was one of the lone bright spots. He finished with single-game career-highs in tackles (19, 11 of which were solo), tackles for loss (4.5) and sacks (three).

“I’m just having a lot of fun with it, just playing good, team defense,” Wright said. “Our scheme that we’ve had the last couple of weeks put me in some good positions. Our defensive line has been playing great, freeing me up a lot of blocks and the double teams, really kind of sending them to me.”

The 19 tackles are the most for a Wildcat since Marcus Bell had 20 at ASU on Nov. 27, 1999. The 4.5 tackles for loss are the most since Spencer Larsen had 4.5 at USC on Oct. 13, 2007.

Wright is one of 20 semifinalists for the Chuck Bednarik Award, which goes to the most outstanding defensive player. He is also one of 12 semifinalists for the Rotary Lombardi Award. Two other Pac-12 players are semifinalists.

The Rotary Lombardi Award is for down linemen and linebackers who line up within five yards of the line of scrimmage.

Wright is the only Football Bowl Subdivision player in the top 20 in tackles, tackles for loss, sacks and forced fumbles. He is No. 1 in the nation in forced fumbles, with five.
The parade of accolades comes after Wright, whose full name is Philip Wright III, was considered a two-star recruit coming out of high school.

“Scooby plays with a passion,” Rodriguez said. “He plays like he wants to prove himself. I think because of his attitude, we keep getting better.”

Sophomore receiver Cayleb Jones, for the week of Sept. 22, is the only other Wildcat to win Pac-12 Player of the Week this year.

Rodriguez said Wright’s success can also be attributed to his added experience in the scheme and college football; he’s a true sophomore.

“He’s growing up in our system,” Rodriguez said. “As time goes along, sort of next year as well, he’ll become almost like an extension of [Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers] coach [Jeff] Casteel out there and be able to line everybody up, and his knowledge of our scheme is getting better every week.”

Rodriguez said the only thing he’s worried about Wright is if the sophomore gets tired, with Wright being so active.

“I think the big thing that sticks out with him is his motor,” Gilbert said. “His motor is just nonstop. He’s always going 110 percent, no matter where he’s playing, no matter what quarter it is, what play it is, he’s always going, playing like his hair’s on fire.”


Follow James Kelley on Twitter.

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