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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Jacked up ‘Cats prepare for NAU


Arizona offensive lineman Freddie Tagaloa (72) chats with UTSA defensive tackle Vontrell King-Williams (97) in Arizona Stadium following the Wildcat’s win on Thursday, Sept. 3.

Arizona football walked out of Nevada with a 44-20 victory over the Wolf Pack Saturday night. The No. 20 ranked Wildcats will now look to take on NAU Saturday at Arizona Stadium.

The biggest question facing the Wildcats right now is who will be playing the middle linebacker position.

Scooby Wright III won’t be able to return for at least another week, and Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez announced that Wright’s replacement, Haden Gregory, will also be out for two to four weeks with an injury.

“What we are forced to do and have been forced to do defensively is guys that have played outside linebacker now have to learn how to play [middle linebacker],” Rodriguez said on Monday. “It’s not a bad thing because it’s forcing them to learn the entire package, but it seems like most of the injuries have hit that one spot.”

Rodriguez is hopeful that linebacker DeAndre’ Miller, who did not play against Nevada, will be able to play Saturday. He also hopes Derrick Turituri and Jake Matthews, both of whom faced injuries of their own Saturday, will be healthy and ready to play as well.

Tre Tyler, who sprained his ankle against Nevada, will be another option for the Wildcats at linebacker.

Rodriguez also said Wright’s progression is going well.

“He ran around a little bit yesterday,” Rodriguez said. “Our trainers are doing a great job; he’s doing a lot of running in the pool. I think he’s going to be jogging by the end of the week.”

In terms of his return, though, things may still be up in the air.

“He hates to sit out a play let alone a whole game. To sit around and watch it on TV was probably torture for him,” Rodriguez said. “He’s doing everything the doctors and trainers want him to do and we’ll find out when he’s going to be available come next week, or whenever.”

Left tackle Freddie Tagaloa made his first appearance as a Wildcat on Saturday.

“Freddie played okay; I think he would be the first one to tell you he could play better,” Rodriguez said. “I don’t think he’s 100 percent and that probably hurt him a little bit. I think it was his first action in a couple years, so it was good for him to get out there and move around a little bit.”

At the same time, Rodriguez preached about him being one of the hardest working players on the team.

“One thing about Freddie, you talk about football being important to him, he’s one of the hardest workers we got,” Rodriguez said. “He’ll keep trying to improve because he knows he can play better than what he did.”

Senior Cayman Bundage, who moved over to center in place of the injured Carter Wood, earned some praise from Rodriguez.

“He was our Hard Edge Player of the Week at center and the new position is extremely physical,” Rodriguez said. “That’s always been part of his game. Cayman was getting after it pretty good so it was good to see that.”

Rodriguez also says Bundage has become a more vocal player on the offense.

“You have to be vocal a little bit as a center because you’re identifying things, and I think he’s enjoyed it because its forced [him] out to assume some leadership role,” Rodriguez said. “The middle of your team, your center, quarterback, nose guard, middle linebacker and safeties all have to be the most vocal guys a lot of times and Cayman has forced himself to do that and has done a really good job in two weeks.”

Arizona’s attention is now focused on the Lumberjacks and the squad they will bring to Tucson.

“They’re a very good [FCS] team,” Rodriguez said. “The team they beat the first game is a very good [FCS] team. They played extremely hard and we know we’ll get their best effort.”

Although few may predict NAU to upset the Wildcats, Rodriguez still wants his team to grind it out each week, especially since any team can produce an upset.

“I’ll tell our team that everyone expects us to win and I understand that,” Rodriguez said.

“We’re [FBS], they’re [FCS]. Our main focus every week is on us anyway. We have to look to get better because anybody can beat us.”

Arizona defensive coordinator and linebackers coach, Jeff Casteel, will get a chance to face off against his son Jake this weekend, who plays linebacker for NAU.

“I don’t recall ever playing a team that has one of our coach’s sons on their team,” Rodriguez said. “I know which team Coach Casteel will be cheering for, but Ms. Casteel, I hope she’s rooting for Jake. Jake is a great young man and I have known him for a very long time. He’s playing very well up there.”

The Wildcats will face the Lumberjacks at 8 p.m. Saturday at Arizona Stadium.

Follow Kyle Hansen on Twitter.

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