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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Linebackers to lead experienced defense

    Linebacker Spencer Larson takes down ASU running back Shaun DeWitty in a 28-14 loss at Arizona Stadium on Nov. 25, 2006. Larson led the team with 89 tackles last season, coupled with an interception and three recovered fumbles.
    Linebacker Spencer Larson takes down ASU running back Shaun DeWitty in a 28-14 loss at Arizona Stadium on Nov. 25, 2006. Larson led the team with 89 tackles last season, coupled with an interception and three recovered fumbles.

    On a team that was not reluctant to rely on its defense to get it out of critical situations last year, it is the linebacking corps that is prepared to pick up what little slack is left on a unit that returns 10 starters.

    After battling a surplus of injuries in 2005 – which prevented starting linebackers Spencer Larsen, Dane Krogstad and Ronnie Palmer from seeing the field together the entire season – the three came together last year and manufactured a very productive season.

    “”Having all of us back is very comfortable, and I think that is the way you have to put it,”” Palmer said. “”You can depend on the guy next to you and the guy on the other side of you, so you can get the job done without questioning or worrying about it. It’s very comforting.””

    Last year, the second level was potent and punishing, as Larsen led the team with 89 tackles, in addition to 69 from Palmer and 41 from Krogstad.

    Thanks in part to their efforts, Arizona finished fourth in the Pacific 10 Conference in total defense (326.2 yards per game) and third in points allowed (19.6).

    Larsen said the experience they all gained from playing an entire season with one another was far more important than any statistic.

    “”Last year we got to develop a lot of camaraderie and play with each other while learning each other’s tendencies and how each person plays,”” Larsen said. “”I think playing with both of them will become a big advantage once the season starts because we will be able to read everyone’s moves and know what they are doing at all times.””

    Though Larsen has been the go-to guy in the linebacking corps, it will be Krogstad who is utilized in a different way this year – he will see time in Arizona’s nickel package.

    Unlike a year ago, when Krogstad was replaced by Marcus
    Hollingsworth in the nickel, the senior will stay on the field so his size can be utilized on passing plays.

    Krogstad has been getting reps at middle and strong-side linebacker throughout camp.

    “”He is a very good outside linebacker that we need to keep on the field more,”” said head coach Mike Stoops.

    With all the experience Arizona possesses at the second level also comes the luxury of depth. Despite having three well-developed starting upperclassmen, the Wildcats will incorporate sophomore Xavier Kelley and juniors Adrian McCovy and James Alford, with all expected to get significant playing time this season.

    “”I really like where our linebackers are, and we are gaining some depth and some big positions inside, too,”” Stoops said.

    The younger players say they’re pumped about their expanded roles.

    “”I am really excited about getting an opportunity to get on the field and get some playing time,”” McCovy said. “”It is always good to be able to play more on the football field, especially at the college level.””

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