2006 Football -- The Defensive Line
In Arizona's 4-3 defense, the front is made up of four positions -- defensive ends on both sides, a tackle and a tackle or nose close to the other team's center. It's a widely used formation.
No question the best defensive teams have outstanding defensive linemen. There are no better ways to handle opponents than quick stops up front against running attacks, or quick pressure against teams that want to throw.
The Wildcat's 2006 front has shown signs of considerable improvement, all based on experience and better physical strength.
|DE Coach Joe Robinson|
Arizona's historically two best teams had good starting D-linemen -- Rob Waldrop, Chuck Osborne, Jimmie Hopkins and Tedy Bruschi on the 10-2 club in 1993; Daniel Greer, Keoni Fraser, Joe Tafoya and Mike Robertson among others on the 12-1 team in 1998. It wasn't a coincidence. UA's head coach of those squads, Dick Tomey, offered a recurring theme year after year -- "You can't get enough defensive linemen because everyone knows who the good guys are and they all want them." Mike Stoops subscribes to the theory, too.
UA's 2006 linemen largely are man made -- that is to say they've been developed largely by strength coaches and practice situations that force the use of fundamentals built on more power. For example, returning starting tackle Yaniv Barnett reported in 2004 as a 265-pound freshman. He played that first year, owing to instinctual skills but also because of UA's lack of depth. Two years later he enters his junior season weighing in at 285. End Marcus Smith, who redshirted last year after an injury, reported as a freshman in 2003 toting 235 pounds on his lanky frame. The eye test today shows a different man, one carrying 265 pounds.
|DE Marcus Smith|
|DE Johnathan Turner|
|DT Yaniv Barnett|
|DT Lionel Dotson|
The Cats bring back those two starters, plus starters in senior Paul Philipp or junior Lionel Dotson at the other tackle spot, and sophomore Johnathan Turner at the other end position. Senior end Jason Parker played as the top reserve in all 11 games a year ago and will push hard for a top role, senior tackle Rickey Parker played in eight games and sophomore end Michael Shelton played in seven games as a true freshman. Turner was a freshman All-America third-team selection by The Sporting News.
It's a good beginning point for a young program under semi-new management. But Mike Stoops and staff went out and recruited five promising freshmen for the defensive front, plus hope to add another pair of junior college players in fall camp.
UA has to replace probable NFL draftee Copeland Bryan, one of the two best defensive players on the team and the Cats' top edge rusher at end for the past two years. The return for a fifth-year and fourth of playing by Smith will go a long way to filling that loss. He's started 19 games in his career. And Turner was the top lineman behind Bryan in tackles a year ago, checking in with 27 including four for losses. He's a talented young lineman.
Barnett, an 11-game starter as a sophomore and a top reserve as a redshirt freshman in 2004, also tied for the returning lead with 27 hits, plus added three tackles for loss and a pair of pass knockdowns. Dotson started four games, played in 10 and recorded 21 tackles, plus broke up three passes. Philipp started four early games but similar to other years in his career was troubled by a shoulder injury.
"Smith and Turner have played to high levels. Turner was a freshman All-American last year and he's made steady improvement," Stoops says. "We played some games without Bryan and Smith last year, and that's something that we're really we're not good enough to overcome -- playing without our best players. We're healthy now."
"I think the defensive line is an area where we significantly need to improve, and will. And we will continue to recruit a couple of junior college players and hopefully we'll be able to sign two more this summer," Stoops said.
Five newcomers arrive for sure and will open their first camps at all four positions on the defensive front -- ends Ricky
|DE Jason Parker|
|DT Rickey Parker|
|DT Paul Philipp|
D-Line Delineated... Redshirt freshman Donald Horton Jr., who played defensive end his first year, switched to the interior tackle spot in spring ball and will contend for a role in his first year of action.... In the first spring scrimmage (4-1-06), the Cats totaled nine tackles for loss, six from linemen. Defensive end Jason Parker led the way with three, Dotson contributed two and Rickey Parker had one. That kind of activity in the backfield, against what coaches feel is a superb offensive line, bodes well for the Wildcats... Sophomore Dave Bertrand, a walk-on tackle, worked his way into the playing rotation a year ago and had the first of his three tackles on his first play in 2005 against Stanford. He and tackle John Markovich will provide depth in 2006... UA played 10 different defensive linemen in 2005 and seven of them had at least one start... Insiders believe Mike Stoops will develop a difference maker of note up front, like his Oklahoma defenses with tackle Tommie Harris, among others. The Cats have gone a decade without an All-American defensive lineman, dating to end Tedy Bruschi's unanimous selection in 1985... Like Johnathan Turner last year, tackle Keoni Fraser earned Freshman All-America honors from The Sporting News in 1998... The Cats' 2006 freshman newcomers each were well-rounded athletes in high school, coming from programs where they played tight end, fullback, quarterback, basketball and track at various times as prep stars... Marcus Smith looks like a big tackle, although he insists he won't move inside from end, a decision that coaches actually make. With 34 games played, he's the elder statesman on the team and was a game captain at times each of the past three seasons... If Bryan is drafted by an NFL team during the draft April 29-30 -- as Stoops contends -- he'll be the most recent defensive lineman from UA picked since Joe Tafoya was a seventh-round selection of the Chicago Bears in 2001....
The Wildcat D-Line: No. Pos Ht Wt Cl Exp 96 Yaniv Barnett DT 6-1 285 Jr. 2L 62 Dave Bertrand DT 6-1 291 So. 1L+ 54 Lionel Dotson DT 6-4 278 Jr.* 2L 46 Donald Horton Jr. DE 6-0 259 Fr.* RS 64 John Markovich DT 6-0 280 Jr. SQ+ 53 Jason Parker DE 6-3 258 Jr.* 1L 56 Paul Philipp DT 6-3 294 Sr.* 3L 91 Michael Shelton DE 6-3 230 So. 1L 55 Marcus Smith DE 6-5 266 Sr.* 3L 97 Johnathan Turner DE 6-3 250 So.* 1L (*redshirted a season; + denotes non-scholarship) Fall Arrival (all freshmen) Conan Amituanai DT 6-4 280 Braylon Ricky Lolomana Mikaele DT 6-2 260
The Wildcat D-Line:
No. Pos Ht Wt Cl Exp
96 Yaniv Barnett DT 6-1 285 Jr. 2L
62 Dave Bertrand DT 6-1 291 So. 1L+
54 Lionel Dotson DT 6-4 278 Jr.* 2L
46 Donald Horton Jr. DE 6-0 259 Fr.* RS
64 John Markovich DT 6-0 280 Jr. SQ+
53 Jason Parker DE 6-3 258 Jr.* 1L
56 Paul Philipp DT 6-3 294 Sr.* 3L
91 Michael Shelton DE 6-3 230 So. 1L
55 Marcus Smith DE 6-5 266 Sr.* 3L
97 Johnathan Turner DE 6-3 250 So.* 1L
(*redshirted a season; + denotes non-scholarship)
Fall Arrival (all freshmen)
Conan Amituanai DT 6-4 280
Lolomana Mikaele DT 6-2 260