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Arizona Position Previews - Defense

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A look at Arizona's funky 3-3-5.

Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Spor

Defensive Line

Arizona runs a 3-3-5. Normally, that would lead one to expect a pretty beefy trio of defensive linemen, but that's not really the case here.. Defensive end Reggie Gilbert (Sr., 6-4, 262) has very solid size for an end, and Dan Pettinato (Sr., 6-5, 277) is nothing to sneeze at. It's svelte nose tackle Parker Zellers (RSFr., 6-1, 247) that really stands out. Washington NT Danny Shelton is nearly 100 pounds heavier than Zellers.

As should be expected in this scheme, no one on the line boasts impressive counting stats. Pettinato leads the three with 27 total tackles, while Gilbert has been the most disruptive with 3.0 sacks and 4.5 TFLs.

Linebackers

MLB Scooby Wright III (So., 6-1, 246) straight wrecks fools. I'll save you the Scooby-Doo pun and get straight to the damage: 107 tackles, 20.5 TFLs, and 12.0 sacks. Those numbers rank 2nd, 2nd, and 3rd in the conference, respectively.

It's one thing for a linebacker to clean up mistakes and rack up tackles, but for a MLB to wreak that kind of havoc behind the line of scrimmage is truly rare.

Cody Ippolito (So., 6-2, 242) or Derrick Turituri (So., 6-1, 265) will start at SLB, and Jake Matthews (So., 6-3, 221) or DeAndre' Miller (So., 6-3, 220) will start at WLB. For what it's worth, Ipolito and Matthews have started the majority of Arizona's games up to this point.

Defensive Backs

Lots of defensive backs! To my knowledge, a few of these positions blur the line between safety and linebacker.

SPUR William Parks (Jr., 6-1, 194) has 51 total tackles, 5.5 TFLs and 2 INTs. He's started every game this season.

BANDIT Jared Tevis (Sr., 5-11, 202) has arguably been the 2nd most important defender behind Wright. He's 2nd on the team with 81 tackles, 2nd with 6.5 TFLs, and 4th with 2.0 sacks. He's also chipped in a single interception.

Jourdon Grandon (Sr., 6-0, 185) has also started all nine games. He has totalled 53 tackles (3rd) and 1 INT.

Jonathan McKnight (Sr., 5-11, 174) has been starting since midway through the 2012 season. Jarvis McCall Jr. (RSFr., 6-2, 182) started the first seven games before making way for Cam Denson (Fr., 5-11, 168) to start against UCLA and Colorado the past two weeks. McCall is listed as the starter this week.

Overview

This is an average to slightly-below-average Pac-12 defense that is heavy on speed and light on...heaviness. In conference play, the Wildcats are 9th in yards allowed per play (5.91) and 8th in yards allowed per game (466), and 7th in points allowed per game (28.5).

While Arizona has fared slightly better against the run (6th in yards per rushing attempt, 7th in total rushing yards) than against the pass (8th in both categories), the difference is minimal.

Holding Oregon to only 24 points in an upset victory was undoubtedly the team's best defensive performance. Allowing only 17 to Brett Hundley and the Bruins was pretty solid as well, even if UCLA won by 10 points.

Other than that, the Wildcats have given up points. They've just usually managed to allow fewer than the high-octane Arizona offense has scored.

Apparently Shaq will not be starting at running back for Washington, which is really too bad against a team that plays with 5 defensive backs and a 247 points NT by default. Still, both Lavon Coleman and Dwayne Washington run with power, and we will likely see Shaq for at least 5-10 carries.

I feel that Washington can score against this defense. The key will be to do at least a little bit of that scoring in the 1st quarter. The Huskies never really had a chance last week in the 14-point loss to UCLA because they found themselves in a hole immediately. The offense leaving the defense out to dry in the 1st half of contents has been a reoccurring theme, and if it repeats, it will likely be a death sentence in the desert.