4. WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE ARIZONA DEFENSE
– The defense went young with five sophomores among the top six tacklers and with nine of the top 13 tacklers underclassmen, but it wasn’t pretty. The Wildcats allowed 432 yards and 33 points per game, getting ripped apart late in the season allowing 144 points in the final three games. On the plus side, the D is loaded with veterans and should be better because …
– The linebacking corps should be terrific. 236-pound junior Colin Schooler is the all-star stat-sheet filler in the middle – coming up with a team-high 119 tackles with 21.5 tackles for loss – and with 230-pound junior Tony Fields on next to him after making 89 stops. The defense operates around these two, and 225-pound Anthony Pandy can fill in where needed.
– A bit more of a pass rush from the front four would be a plus. Two starters are back on the line with both of them on the outside. 258-pound junior JB Brown led the team with 3.5 sacks, and the combination of Jalen Harris and Kylan Wilborn return on the other side.
The interior is the concern, with 330-pound JUCO transfer Myles Tapusoa needing to be a rock right away on the nose, and without a whole lot of bulk around him.
– The linebackers are the stars of the defense, but there’s enough experience in the secondary to make a big improvement. Senior Jace Whittaker was a key loss with an arm injury, but he’s back at one corner spot. Junior Lorenzo Burns is versatile enough to play just about anywhere in the secondary after finishing fifth on the team with 39 stops.
Junior Scottie Young is the best of the deep group of safeties – making 38 tackles with a team-high three picks – and senior Tristan Cooper is a decent veteran hitter.