Arizona Football Defensive Preview


The 2014 Arizona Wildcat defense will be an interesting group, but before we get to the 2014 defense, lets just take a quick recap at the 2013 defense and their remarkable improvement.

In 2013, led by defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel, and his unorthodox 3-3-5 defense, the Wildcats improved their total defense by nearly 100 yards per game, which was the fifth best improvement in the nation. The Arizona defense saw an improvement of 1.3 yards per play, 1.8 yards per pass, and 0.6 yards per rush in 2013. The Cats will have to replace 121 career starts after losing Jake Fischer, Marquis Flowers, Sione Tuihalamaka, and Tevin Hood to graduation. Now on to the 2014 version of the Wildcat defense.

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Defensive Line

Starting with the defensive line where Reggie Gilbert and Dan Pettinato return after seeing tons of playing experience last season. Joining these two will be LSU transfer Jordan Allen and former Boise State defensive lineman Jeff Worthy. These will be the top four defensive linemen, but there are more than just four players who will be seeing time this season. Redshirt sophomores Aiulua Fanene and Dwight Melvin, as well as, true freshman Marcus Griffin, will be relied on to give the first team guys a break. This unit may not have a lot of experience playing together, but they have experience and that is something Casteel and Rich Rodriguez can work with.


The Cats get the services of freshman All-American Scooby Wright coming off a great first year in Tucson. Wright finished his freshman season with 83 tackles, 9.5 for loss, and an interception at the Sam linebacker position. This season he may slide into the middle and replace Jake Fischer. Other linebackers vying for playing time are junior Keoni Bush-Loo, sophomores Jake and DeAndre Matthews, and Derrick Turituri, JUCO transfer Antonio Smothers, and true freshman Jamardre Cobb. Plenty of depth and plenty of young guys who have experience make this group an intriguing bunch.


Aug 30, 2013; Tucson, AZ, USA; Arizona Wildcats safety Jared Tevis (38) warms up before the first quarter against the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks at Arizona Stadium. Arizona beat Northern Arizona 35-0. Mandatory Credit: Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

This is the most experienced group of the bunch with seven seniors and four juniors returning in 2014. Last season the Wildcat secondary had 18 interceptions and returned five for a touchdown, which was tied for the most in the nation. At corner Johnathan McKnight will be the leader and starting beside him looks to be redshirt freshman Jarvis McCall. Also competing for the starting job is freshman Cam Denson who is the more physical of the two.

At the three safety positions the Cats have a ton of experience. At free safety is Jourdon Grandon who will look to get some consistency this season. The leading returning tackler, and former walk-on, Jared Tevis, will hold down the bandit safety spot in 2014. Tevis will be all over the field dropping into coverage to help the coreners on deep routes or being another man in the box and stuffing the run.

Then we get to the spur safety and the Tra’Mayne Bondurant fiasco. Is he going to play or is he not? Who knows, but he is working his way back after leaving the team earlier this month. If Boundurant does not play look for William Parks to come in and get most of the snaps at the spur position.

There is not a lot of star power here, but there is a ton of experience and a ton of talent that could make this unit one of the better ones in the Pac-12.

Defensive Expectations

This defense should improve even more in 2014 and will be the best in the Rich Rod era. There is so much depth and experience on this side that if someone goes down it will not destroy the Wildcats like in years past. It may take a few games for this unit as a whole to get used to playing with each other, but once they do they could give some of these high-powered Pac-12 offenses a challenge. Four more days Arizona football fans.