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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Position Preview: Defensive Backs

Projected Starters: Shaquille Richardson (junior), Derrick Rainey (junior), Marquis Flowers (junior), Tra’Mayne Bondurant (sophomore), Jared Tevis (junior)

Backups: Mark Watley (senior), Jonathan McKnight (sophomore), Blake Brady (sophomore), Vince Miles (freshman), Jourdon Grandon (sophomore)

Departures: Adam Hall (injury), Trevin Wade (NFL), Rob Golden (NFL)

Returning stat leaders: Richardson – four interceptions, 47 tackles; Grandon – one interception, 36 tackles; Bondurant – one interception, 45 tackles, one sack; Flowers – one interception, 68 tackles, one sack; Watley – one interception, 27 tackles.

Last year’s defensive struggles aside, former head coach Mike Stoops didn’t leave the defensive backfield cupboard completely bare for current head coach Rich Rodriguez.

Rodriguez inherited Bondurant and Flowers, arguably the best defensive players the Wildcats have, in addition to a group of experienced younger players in Richardson, the team’s best cover corner, and Rainey, one of Arizona’s fastest players.

After playing in a 4-3 defense that featured a traditional free and strong safety, the switch to the 3-3-5 “odd stack” means a third safety. Presumably Bondurant has the freedom to play a “spur” position — similar to what he played after being called up from the scout team following Stoops’ firing last year, resulting in 28 tackles, a sack and an interception over a four-game span.

Bondurant will line up at safety with Tevis and Flowers, the biggest starting defensive back at 6-foot-3-inches and 220 pounds. Flowers was the top-ranked recruit in Arizona’s 2010 class, and has played in every game but two since he came to the UA.

Tevis, a Tucson native and former walk-on, was given a scholarship by Rodriguez prior to the start of this season and in the spring moved into a starting safety spot, called the “bandit” in the 3-3-5 defensive formation.

McKnight is returning from a torn ACL that cost him all of last season, but reviews from Rodriguez have been positive. In the spring, Dan Buckner even told the Daily Wildcat that McKnight was the best cover corner on the roster.

Rodriguez noted at Pac-12 Media Day in July that although McKnight would to be limited in fall practice, he will be ready to play in the season opener on Sept. 1 against Toledo.

Richardson, who led the team with four interceptions, is the most experienced defensive back on the team, having started every game in his two-year career at Arizona. As a freshman in his first start, Richardson picked off two Washington State passes for the Wildcats and had a career-high seven tackles in a 24-7 victory.

Adam Hall, who missed most of last season due to injury, re-tore his ACL in this year’s spring game and is expected to miss the entire season.

Grade: B

Up Next: Offensive Line

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