Greg Byrne's Wildcat Wednesday
Outlook - Defense 2: LBs Solid
By: Arizona Athletics
Release: April 10, 2007
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Second Level is Solid


Coach: Tim Kish


- Get to the front, not the back of any lines with some Season Tickets to 2007 football -




Whenever Arizona played a highly-ranked team in the past few years inevitably some scribes noted, of the supposed mismatch, that the Cats had only a handful of guys who could play for the opposition. Linebacker Spencer Larsen always was picked.


Not a hard guess. And if Arizona had pulled out a few more victories last year, doubtless he might have earned more than his second-team all-conference honor. He’s 100-tackles good at the weak side spot.


He didn’t quite get that many hits last year, leading the squad with 89. Add in junior middle linebacker Ronnie Palmer’s 69 and senior Sam linebacker Dane Krogstad’s 41, and it’s clear the level of defense has improved from the days free safeties led the squad in tackles. UA’s second level of defense played strong and is poised with those three veterans to have more of an impact in 2007.



“I’m blessed to have three guys like that,” says linebacker coach Tim Kish.


Larsen and Krogstad are seniors and Palmer's a junior. Key backups have some experience in sophomore Xavier Kelley and junior James Alford.


Krogstad gave way in formation play to the nickel back, otherwise his tackles numbers would be higher ?- his safety sub Marcus Hollingsworth had 31 tackles last year as a senior.


The find at linebacker in early 2007 is a kid from Texas who played his senior year of high school in Phoenix and slipped through the cracks, middle linebacker Cole Graybill. Kish said the 6-2, 235 pound redshirt freshman is going to be a player, and earned serious rotation time in spring ball. Coaches anticipate awarding him a scholarship after the year. Graybill spent a lot of time studying the system after last season and said that knowing what to do has freed him to play some free-wheeling ball.


Spencer Larsen

Ronnie Palmer

Dane Krogstad


Sophomore Kelley played in all 12 games on special teams and in spots, and is developing nicely behind Larsen. Junior two-year letterman Alford, playing behind Krogstad, has the wheels to play on special teams and the perseverance to keep at it in the quest for a bigger piece of action. He was one of Stoops’ very first recruits, joining the program at mid-year in December 2003, and will be in the first group of Stoops' fifth-year guys next year.


Arizona signed a pair of cousins, Vuna Tuihalamaka and Apaiata Tuihalamaka, for fall. Vuna was a first-team junior college All-American, and Apaiata had All-American prep credentials as an outside linebacker. How ready they are is an August question, but UA should have the benefit of pointing out the action on the field and showing them how it’s done in Larsen, Palmer and Krogstad.


Palmer's ability puts him in position to be a difference maker this year and superior fifth-year senior leader on the Wildcats' defense in 2008.


Top Linebackers

Spencer Larsen, 6-1, 236, Sr., 3L

Ronnie Palmer, 6-3, 239, Jr., 2L

Dane Krogstad, 6-2, 236, Sr., 3L

Xavier Kelley, 6-0, 200, So., 1L

James Alford, 6-1, 22, Jr., 2L

Cole Graybill, 6-3, 236, Fr-RS

Fall Recruits: Vuna Tuihalamaka, 6-2, 220, Jr.; Api Tuihalamaka, 6-3, 210, Fr.


Xavier kelley

James Alford

Position Notes... Linebackers coach Tim Kish has been honored nationally for his recruiting prowess in both 2005 and 2006... Larsen was a second-team All-Pac-10 pick and 1st-team All-Academic selection... He and his wife, Ann, are expecting their first child in April, a son likely to be named Spencer... Larsen was the first UA linebacker since Lance Briggs to lead the team in tackles with his 89 a year ago... Kish says the Mike linebacker makes the official defensive call in the huddle although pretty much everyone on the unit is supposed to be keying on sideline coaches to know the scheme for any given play... Two years ago UA’s defensive growth was slowed when Larsen, Palmer and Krogstad combined to miss 15 games, never starting together in ’05...  Krogstad is often a defender with the freshest legs at games' end, with UA substituting a nickel back for his position in many passing situations...  Linebackers had half of UA's 12 forced fumbles in 2006 led by Larsena and Palmer with a pair each, while Larsen led the team with three fumble recoveries to put him in the action on five of the team's 22 (defensive) fumble statistics...  Palmer led 'backers with two interceptions while Larsen and Krogstad each had one and the trio knocked down 10 passes combined in 2006... Mike Stoops, whose assisting coaching career was centered on the secondary and coordinating, pays a lot of attention in practices to linebacker play, as much as the secondary players.  If he sees a guy take the wrong hole or gap, watch out... 

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