What are expectations for Arizona Wildcats’ defense in 2016?

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There is a lot of talk and hype around the Arizona Wildcats’ defense coming into this season. The Wildcats and head coach Rich Rodriguez brought in distinguished defensive coordinator Marcel Yates to give this defense a new scheme, look, and confidence in 2016.

Last year as the Boise State defensive coordinator, the Broncos ranked as one of the best defenses in the country. Boise State ranked 5th in turnovers, 5th in rushing defense, 10th in 3rd down conversion, 11th red-zone defense, 12th in total defense, 19th in tackles, 20th in yard-per-play allowed, and 31st in sacks.

With Yates’ defense posting those type of numbers, there’s reason for high expectations for this Wildcat defense. Yates typically runs a 4-2-5 defensive scheme, and sometimes switches to a 3-3-5. A defense like this relies on defensive pressure from the line and playmaking corners, whether it is from blitzing or playmaking. With Boise State’s defense ranking so high in turnovers, expect the Wildcats to become ball hawks this season.

Yate’s defense relies on the “stud” position. This player is a defensive end/outside linebacker hybrid, whose primary responsibilities are rushing the passer and dropping into coverage, but mainly rushing the passer. Redshirt junior DeAndre Miller is expected to step into the role, as he recorded eight tackles-for-losses, two sacks, and 50 tackles last seasons.

Miller has been watching game tape on some of the best pass rushers in football including Khalil Mack, Von Miller, Dwight Freeney, and DeMarcus Ware. Miller knows he needs to learn and improve his repertoire. Miller has said, “ I need a variety of different moves.  You can’t do the same move every time.”

It’s hard to rank the Wildcats’ defense, but the addition of Yates is an automatic improvement. When you start talking about the best defenses in the nation, you have to name the likes of Alabama, LSU, Michigan, Ohio State, and Clemson. All of these teams are national title contenders, meanwhile the Arizona Wildcats will be fighting in the Pac-12.

Do the Wildcats have potential this season? Yes. Are expectations rising for Rich Rodriguez and now Marcel Yates? Yes. But let’s not put one foot in front of the other. It would be premature to expect the Wildcats’ defense to rank among the nation’s best, especially with matchups against Stanford, USC, UCLA and Washington on the schedule. The Wildcats will see an improvement in their defensive rankings, but let’s pump the brakes in ranking them with the elite defenses in the country.

 

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