There might not have been a more pressing need for the Arizona Wildcats football recruiting class going into this season than adding depth on the defensive side of the ball.
The Wildcats defense struggled to say the least in year one under Rich Rodriguez and it was due in large part to a lack of size as well as depth.
But Rodriguez was able to make a splash on freshman that have been able to come in and play big roles right away. One of which has been true freshman out of Windsor, California, Scooby Wright who leads the team in tackles through nine weeks of the season.
“I worked pretty hard and I set my goals pretty high,” said Wright. “I keep working pretty hard and everything has worked out.”
“We pick a hard edge player of the week and Scooby could probably win it every week,” added Rich Rodriguez. “He played hard. Scooby has a lot of passion.”
Wright’s 60 total tackles, which is 11th in the conference, and seven and a half tackles for loss, which is tied for 14th in the conference, have been a huge spark for the Wildcats. He has tried to take away examples set from linebackers that have come before him and is applying it to his game.
“I have been trying to get the mental side of the game from Jake (Fischer),” mentioned Wright. “Growing up, Ray Lewis and Brian Urlacher were my favorites to watch.”
Last week in particular was a special week for Wright. He was able to return home to Northern California to spotlight his game in front of family and friends during the Wildcats win over Cal.
“It was pretty cool going back home and seeing all of my friends, family, coaches, and teachers. Getting that win on Cal’s home field was pretty special.”
Next up for Wright and the Wildcats might be their biggest test yet of the season. On homecoming, the UCLA Bruins come to town in need of a win to stay in the mix for the Pac-12 South crown. At the same time, the Wildcats are looking to do the same.
They face a quarterback with Arizona ties in Brett Hundley who had a huge game against the Wildcats in 2012, and is having a very good 2013 campaign as well.
“You’re talking about a guy weighing 240 pounds,” Rodriguez stated. “He’s got great size. He’s an intelligent runner. Whether they call a quarterback draw or he scrambles on his own, he does a good job of taking what’s there and getting first downs.”
“It’s painful to watch but we have to,” added Rodriguez about watching film of last years’ 66-10 loss in Pasadena last year. “We didn’t play well, and they played well so it was a very poor performance on our part in all three phases. We have to watch it to learn what we need to get better at and how they may attack us.”
As mentioned, it is homecoming in Tucson this Saturday. UCLA doesn’t have a great track record of facing Arizona on the road during a homecoming game. The last time this was the case back in 2005, the Wildcats shocked a ranked Bruin team 52-14. The Wildcats are leaning on the fans to create a similar environment Saturday.
“Our stadium has been electric in the past, especially in big games,” said senior receiver Terrence Miller. “I’m expecting it to be electric this weekend.”
Kick-off between the Wildcats and Bruins is Saturday from Arizona Stadium at 8pm on ESPN.