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The Daily Wildcat

 

Hank Hobson thrown into Wildcats’ linebacker mix

Michelle+A.+Monroe+%2F+Arizona+Daily+Wildcat%0A%0AThe+Arizona+Wildcats+lost+to+the+Southern+California+Trojans+41-48%2C+at+the+LA+Colosieum.+%0A
Michelle A. Monroe
Michelle A. Monroe / Arizona Daily Wildcat The Arizona Wildcats lost to the Southern California Trojans 41-48, at the LA Colosieum.

Even Mike Stoops will admit it — Arizona’s defense has holes all over the field.

From defensive line to linebacker to cornerback, the Wildcats are struggling to find the right combination of personnel that gives them a chance to win on Saturdays. But after Arizona’s game against USC last week, UA defensive coordinator Tim Kish seems to have found at least one solution: freshman linebacker Hank Hobson.

Hobson made his first career start against the Trojans on Saturday, recorded three tackles and impressed Kish with his never-ending motor. Coaches and players have criticized the Wildcats’ inability to play hard, and Kish said his main priority is to “see us play with tremendous heart for 60 minutes.”

That won’t be a problem with Hobson.

“He’s just a nasty guy that’s a competitor, and he may have been one of the guys that played the hardest in the game on Saturday,” Kish said. “We’re thrilled about the addition and what he brings to the table, and hopefully he’ll just keep getting better each week.”

Since losing starter Jake Fischer to an ACL injury in the offseason, the Wildcats have been scrambling for an answer at linebacker. Junior college transfer David Lopez appeared to be the favorite throughout training camp, but he fell out of favor as the season approached.

Kish then gave the nod to highly-touted freshman Rob Hankins to start the year. The 6-foot-1, 220-pound Hankins — who turned down offers from Arkansas, Miami, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Oklahoma State, and several other schools — showed promise early in the season with 10 tackles through the first three games.

But, after the Stanford loss, Stoops said Hankins became “overwhelmed” by playing middle linebacker at such a high level, and it showed in the freshman’s play.

Hankins rarely saw the field against Oregon and stood on the sideline against USC, leaving the door wide open for Hobson to make his first career start.

“I just felt like he was ready to play, and I was ready to make a change and see what he can do and he did an admirable job,” Kish said.

To help ease the freshman’s transition, Kish moved senior Paul Vassallo to middle linebacker and played Hobson at outside backer. Although he was nowhere near flawless, Hobson, a Bakersfield, Calif., native, proved his worth in front of his friends and family.

“It was a lot of fun,” Hobson said. “I was really anxious but it was different and really exciting. All my family and friends were there so I was excited to play.”

In a game where USC ripped off 48 points on 582 total yards, no one on Arizona’s defense truly stood out. But the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Hobson gave the reeling Wildcats’ defense a glimmer of optimism as they search from any positivity defensively.

“I thought Hank, for his first game, played well,” Stoops said. “Got out of position a couple times but again he’s got a chance to be a good player and did some good things. I like what he’s doing.”

Hobson, son of former Major League Baseball player Butch Hobson, is expected to start at linebacker until Fischer returns. But while his role may only be temporary, he’s building the foundation for a long future at Arizona.

“That kid is a phenomenal athlete,” said defensive line coach Joe Salave’a. “He’ll be a great name here for the U of A program.”

NAME: Hank Hobson
CLASS: Freshman
POSITION: Linebacker
HOMETOWN: Bakersfield, Calif.
HIGH SCHOOL: Stockdale
HEIGHT: 6-foot-2
WEIGHT: 220 pounds
AGE: 19
OTHER OFFERS: Nevada with interest from Boise State, California, Oregon State, Colorado State

STATISTICS:
5 games played
7 tackles
3 tackles against USC

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