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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Defense and fundamentals the main focus for Arizona spring football

Tyler Baker
Arizona cornerback DaVonte’ Neal (19) drags down a Utah receiver at Arizona Stadium on Nov. 14, 2015. Arizona fans will see a new defensive system come September, with many changes still in progress.

Arizona football is still adjusting to the fundamentals and basic drills included with the spring football package.

Like always, Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez refused to release any information in regard to injuries or anyone who’s climbing the depth chart. According to Rodriguez, there isn’t a depth chart and Arizona football will be under wraps until September.

Rodriguez and company may have a few tricks up their sleeves, which may not be on the offensive side of the ball. Defense was a focus over the weekend. Let’s dive into the progress of the return of Desert Swarm defense.

Starting with the basics

The goals for Arizona this offseason are to focus on the basics that they couldn’t accomplish last season because, after all, the Wildcats were ranked No. 113 in the country in total defense.

Safeties coach Jahmile Addae is going head-on into his first year coaching defensive. His previous work with the program was in the film room as a defensive analyst.

Being a former player of Rodriguez’s at West Virginia Univesrity, his intensity has shown, but the goal is still to teach the ball hawks the basics of coverage sets and how certain defensive sets function.

“What we’re trying to do again is take our personalities and me, personally, I’m more of an up-tempo-energy type of guy and I hope it will rub off on my room,” Addae said. “In terms of the technique, we’re going to work that. We’re going to work the basics, we’re going to work the fundamentals.”

Mystery behind the middle linebackers

First year defensive coordinator Marcel Yates will have his hands full when it comes to choosing which players are going to be the two who fill the middle set in the 4-2-5 defense.

Fortunately for Rodriguez, he gives Yates options to choose from.

“[There’s] Carrington Vaughn, who’s really a promising freshman walk-on, who can really play inside and outside, … Cody [Ippolitto], Jamadre Cobb, … Marquis Ware, … John Kenny, Matt Stagg,” Rodriguez said. “There’s a whole host of guys. I don’t even know what a depth chart is or position chart is.”

Rodriguez didn’t even mention returning linebacker Derrick Turituri, who is still reportedly dealing with injury.

The linebacker duo will be a work in progress, but it may be worth it for the new defense.

Breaking old habits

Changing positions isn’t a task that can be done overnight. Going into last season, cornerback DaVonte’ Neal made the transition from wide receiver to defensive back and said the only issue was changing the footwork from “running forward to running backward.”

But it’s more difficult to switch sides of the ball rather than position.

Jarvis McCall Jr. is transitioning from cornerback to safety and now, rather than hoping for help, he’s the good neighbor providing the insurance.

“When I played corner, I used to wait on the safety like ‘OK what am I supposed to do?’” McCall said. “Like, I’m counting on him and now he’s counting on me, so it’s vice versa.”

Arizona’s spring practice is Friday, March 4 at 6 p.m. and will be open to the public.

Follow Justin Spears on Twitter.

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