With weeks to go until the 2022 Arizona Football season, coming into the year, the secondary could be a point of strength for the Wildcats.
College Football is nearly here as we are just under 25 days until the start of the 2022 Arizona Football season.
Coming in, expectations are fairly low for the Wildcats. After all, they are coming off a 1-11 finish and are one year removed from a season in which the defense finished 57th overall and 101 in scoring defense.
However, one of the few strengths of the defense last season was their passing defense.
Allowing teams to pass for 190.1 yards, the Wildcats surrendered an average of 8.06 yards per attempt according to NCAA.com, a metric that had Arizona ranked 15th overall.
An area that could still stand to improve in 2022; however, coming into the season, the secondary could be a competitive group for Arizona Football.
In 2021, Arizona certainly had its high and low points of the season. But luckily for us, that is all in the past, and the Wildcats should be better in 2022. Should the Wildcats make significant improvements on defense, look for the secondary to be a point of strength.
Arizona introduces a new defensive coordinator with the addition of UCLA’s Johnny Nansen. Despite not being a defensive coordinator previously, there is a lot of optimism with the Wildcats’ new assistant coach.
At UCLA, Nansen and the Bruins ran quite of bit of nickel, meaning 4-2-5 defense that will likely be the base look that the Wildcats run next season.
Nansen has emphasized depth this off-season, wanting to use several players to their strength on the defense. So that means lots of reps for guys.
The Wildcats return several key starters and contributors in the secondary from last season, most notably, Christian Roland-Wallace, Christian Young, Gunner Maldonado, Treydan Stukes, Isaiah Mays, Jaxen Turner, and Jaydin Young.
Beyond that, they have also added UCLA transfer DJ Warnell Jr. as well as highly-touted freshmen Ephesians Prysock and Tacario Davis.
Overall, this is a secondary with improved size, length, and athleticism, and on paper, this group should be better. Plus, this is a group that has had another year to work with secondary coaches Chuck Cecil and DeWayne Walker.
While the returning depth is huge for the Wildcats, this is a group that is still fairly thin at corner and safety. Arizona has some talent, but as we have seen virtually every season, if one or two guys go down, things could get a little dicey.
Granted, Arizona has some talented freshmen in Ephesians, Tacario, and Jai-Ayviauynn Celestine that will become good college players eventually; however, you just hope that they aren’t thrown in the deep end too soon.
Overall, I love the personnel that the Wildcats have for running Nickel. Nansen should incorporate some packages that will put his guys in a position to succeed, Plus, I am a big believer in players improving from year one to year two.
Beyond that, I love the Wildcats’ increased size and strength in the secondary. Aside from Tyler Owens’ work in the Strength and Conditioning department, this is a group that has gotten significantly bigger (see Tacario’s and Ephesian’s towering 6-foot-4 stature).
Heading into 2022, the Wildcats should be more equipped to succeed, and overall, I think it starts with the secondary! And with the season just a few weekends away, we will see what kind of group the Wildcats have!