Friday, September 23, 2011

September 23, 2011
Tonight we take a look at the two defenses as we head towards a Saturday night match up between Arizona and Oregon in Tucson.


Justin Washington
Arizona: The Wildcats are led by returning sophomore Justin Washington. Washington started nine games as a redshirt freshman in 2010 recording 46 tackles. Included among those tackles were 11.5 tackles for loss, 6 sacks and a blocked kick. Washington was selected as a first team freshman All-American for his efforts. He is joined in the starting lineup by Sione Tuihalamaka. Sione made four starts in his redshirt freshman year. Both are undersized at 278 and 280 respectively. Through the first three games the Wildcats are giving up 173 yards rushing per game. That number is somewhat misleading, however, as the Wilcats held FCS opponent Northern Arizona to 80 yards on 33 carries. Against Oklahoma State and Stanford, the average rushing yards per game jumps to 219.5. 

The DT's have had little luck pressuring passers as the Wildcats allow an average of 300.3 yards per game through the air. The tackles have no sacks and just 1.5 tackles for loss.

Taylor Hart
Oregon: The Ducks list Taylor Hart and Isaac Remington as starters. They are both also a little smaller, but match Coach Azzinarro's style with both standing in at 6'6" tall. The Ducks defensive line has been maligned for much of the season as they have allowed 214.3 yards per game on the ground including 283 to a Nevada team that the Ducks beat handily. The Ducks, though, are deep at defensive tackle rotating in the much larger Ricky Heimuli (6'4", 321) and Wade Keliikipi (6'3", 300).

The Ducks have had been better at stopping the pass, however, allowing just 145.0 yards per game passing. 

Edge: Even

Neither of the teams have been particularly effective against the run. Both Arizona and Oregon do not use their defensive tackles as pass rushers. The Duck defensive tackles may have some advantage as the Arizona running game has been particularly weak at 55.0 yards per game. Nonetheless, this is still a draw between the two units.


C.J. Parish
Arizona: Arizona lost both of their starters from 2010 (Brooks Reed, Ricky Elmore) to the NFL draft. They also lost a primary backup (D'Aundre Reed) to the draft as well. That leaves them with two former junior college transfers C.J. Parish (6'2" 245) and Mohammed Usman (also 6'2" 245). Parish missed most of the 2010 season after suffering a concussion early in the year. Usman played sparingly until the final 3 games of the season last year. The two have combined for 3 TFL's and 2 sacks so far this season. 

Terrell Turner
Oregon: Oregon returns a veteran group at defensive end this season. Terrell Turner (6'3" 265) mans one side of the line while former Arizonan Dion Jordan (6'7" 240) takes the other side of the field. As with the tackle position, though, the Ducks have a deep rotation at defensive end. Brandon Hanna is the primary backup at defensive end. Hanna leads the group with 12 tackles, 1 TFL and 1 very athletic INT.

Edge: Oregon

Based on production and experience, the edge here goes to the Ducks. There has been a little more productivity and the Ducks have more game experience at the position.


Paul Vassallo
Arizona: Arizona uses a 4-2-5 scheme and has both of their starting linebackers from 2010 returning this year. Led by Will LB Paul Vassallo (102 tackles, 8TFL's, 2 Sacks) the linebackers are very experienced. The other returning starter recorded 44 tackles, 1 sack and an interception in his 12 starts last season. This year, Earls and Vassallo are numbers two and three on the team in tackles respectively. Earls has 23 tackles including 3 TFL's while Vasallo has 20 tackles and 1 TFL. Neither has recorded a sack yet this season.

Dewitt Stuckey
Oregon: The Ducks have had to replace two starting linebackers now playing in the NFL (Matthews, Paysinger). Add in the fact that the Ducks are likely without starting WLB Michael Clay again this week and the Ducks linebacker corps contains two first year starters. The return of Kiko Alonso from suspension helps this unit immensely, but they are still inexperienced. Like everywhere else, the Ducks play a lot of different people at the position and have very capable backups, including Boseko Lokombo who has scored two touchdowns in his short career. That includes his fumble recovery for a TD on the Ducks trip to the desert in 2010 against Arizona State. Joshua Kaddu, who started all 13 games last season brings some experience to the linebacker unit with Dewitt Stuckey the other starter.

Stuckey leads the LB corps with 14 tackles and 1 TFL. Alonso, in 2 games has 11 tackles and 0.5 TFL while Kaddu has 11 tackles and 1 sack. Lokombo has 10 tackles, 0.5 TFL, 1 67 yard interception return for a touchdown and a fumble recovery. Watch for emerging freshman Rodney Hardrick who made an impression with 3 tackles and 2 TFL's last week.

Edge: Arizona 

The Wildcats have the experience and the productivity from their two former JC transfer linebackers. Though the Wildcats have been gashed in the running game, the linebackers are doing their job; making tackles.


Trevin Wade
Arizona: The Wildcats lost Adam Hall to injury this season, but bring back some experienced starters in Trevin Wade and Robert Golden. Marquis Flowers a 6'3" 200 pound safety replaces the departed Adam Hall while Golden mans the other safety position. Wade has two years starting experience, but not a lot of interceptions to show for the experience. On the other side of Wade is a redshirt freshman Jourdon Grandon. Opposing QBs have picked apart the secondary for the Wildcats to the tune of 300 yards per game. Of course, it bears mentioning that two of the three QB's Arizona has faced will likely be playing on Sundays next year. That being said, the Arizona secondary allowed Northern Arizona's QB to go 20-26-179 with 1TD and 1INT. Shaq Richardson is their fifth defensive back. He recorded 26 tackles, 7 passes defended and 2 interceptions in 2010.

John Boyett
Oregon: The Ducks returned virtually their entire secondary from a year ago and it shows. Anchoring the secondary is 3 year starter, John Boyett from his safety position. Boyett is a hard hitter with a nose for the ball. While Boyett anchors the secondary, Cliff Harris locks it down. Though Harris was suspended for the first game this season, he has been slowly worked back into the mix while freshman Terence Mitchell filled in for Harris gaining valuable experience. Eddie Pleasant, a former linebacker, fills the other safety position. Across from Harris will be Anthony Gildon. Gildon, who leads the team with three passes defended, was a starter last season until an ankle injury hobbled him for the rest of the year. 

As a unit, the Ducks are giving up only 145.0 yards per game through the air and are filled with All-America candidates in Boyett and Harris.

Edge: Oregon

It is no secret that the Ducks have had a lot of very talented players in the defensive backfield and this year is no different.


Arizona: The Wildcats have faced two top 10 teams in a row and given up plenty of yards both through the air and on the ground. They are anchored by  a new starting defensive tackle and two new starters at defensive end. Their is some stability in the middle, but the Wildcats have been unable to stop the passing game and running game.

Oregon: Much has been made of the Ducks struggles to stop the run, but there is a little bit of mis-perception. Only one of the three teams had a good day carrying the ball. Though all three gained yards, LSU and Missouri State averaged 3.6 and 3.4 yards per carry respectively. The Ducks are significantly better at stopping the pass than Arizona.

Edge: Oregon 

SCORE PREDICTION: Arizona will score some points; likely more than the 14 and 10 points they have mustered the last two weeks. The question is, will they be able to outscore Oregon? The Ducks have balance on offense and have had success against the pass on defense. Oregon's defensive weakness, stopping the run, is also Arizona's offensive weakness as their running game has been nearly non-existent. Nick Foles is an NFL caliber QB and his arm will keep the team in the game for a while. However, this Arizona team is not as good (yet) as last years team. They may get there by the end of the season, but right now, they just do not have the firepower.

Final: 38-24 Oregon 



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