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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Arizona defensive players talk about BYU and recent changes

    Arizona Athletics head shot of Arizona cornerback (17) Jace Whittaker.
    Arizona Athletics

    Arizona Athletics head shot of Arizona cornerback (17) Jace Whittaker.

    After a long offseason, we finally get to see Arizona’s new, and hopefully improved, defense on Saturday.

    Arizona knows that if it’s going to contend in the Pac-12 Conference, it will need the defense to cause turnovers and get off the field.

    The Wildcats allowed at least 38 points in all six of their losses last season, and over 50 points in three losses.

    A defense that ranked 113th last season is looking forward to the challenges that await it this season. The Wildcats are eager to show their improvements Saturday against BYU.

    While the Cougars return 16 starters, including a massive offensive line, Arizona is still confident they can get the job done when the time comes.

    “I am expecting a good team, but that does not stop us from our goal,” said sophomore free safety Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles. “We want to compete and win.”

    With the addition of defensive coordinator Marcel Yates from Boise State, the defensive players are extremely optimistic about their chances this season.

    “Coach Yates is a great coach,” said sophomore cornerback Jace Whittaker. “He is surrounded by great coaches as well, and [cornerbacks] coach Donte Williams is an amazing coach.”

    The defense is excited to display what they have been working on all summer with new coaches Yates and Williams.

    “We are going to play hard and bust our tails and show you guys what we have been doing in the off season and in the summer,” said senior linebacker Paul Magloire.

    The defensive backs also attribute assistant coach Jahmile Addae and Williams’s intensity in practice for an improved unit.

    Many defensive players boasted about their intensity and passion for the game they bring.

    “Coach Donte just knows football and he knows you as a player and he has the same personality,” Whittaker said.

    While some coaches take on a more passive role during practice, they are lacing up their cleats with the players to help them improve.

    “I am still worried one of them is going to pull a hamstring, but yes, they have been way more active,” Flannigan-Fowles said. “[They are] great coaches, teaching us great technique and getting us ready for this first game.”

    The older players on defense may be learning a new system, but they are still taking the time to help the younger players adjust to the game. The younger players have relied on their older teammates in the past and still want help improve their game for this season.

    “I watched Will Parks, Anthony Lopez and Tellas Jones and they basically took me under their wing last year,” said freshman Bandit Chacho Ulloa. “Throughout the spring and fall, I have had great teammates coach me up on what I am doing wrong and coach Addae talks to me.”

    One player Ulloa said is under the radar and could have an impact this year is freshman safety Isaiah Hayes.

    “He is a hard worker,” Ulloa said. “He does exactly what coach wants him to and he has a great football I.Q., and I have mad respect for him.”

    BYU is not a tune-up game, unlike a lot of season openers. The Cougars are a big, physical team and Arizona is going to need this game to have success down the road. The Wildcats face a tough conference schedule with Utah, USC, UCLA and Stanford all in a four-week stretch, so they need some momentum before conference play.

    This game could end up determining the expectations we have for the 2016 Wildcats, and they would love to start their season with a statement up in Phoenix.

    Follow Ivan Leonard on Twitter.

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