Injuries across the defense were one of the biggest reasons the Arizona Wildcats struggled to stop teams on a consistent basis in the 2011 season. It ultimately turned out to be – statistically speaking – the worst Wildcats' defense in recent memory.
One of the biggest blows prior to the start of the campaign was the season-ending ACL injury to cornerback Jonathan McKnight. In line to start after having a very impressive offseason, McKnight's injury set the defense back and hampered the team's depth.
McKnight is still recovering but is progressing nicely. For now, he is forced to limit himself in practice, but has been impressed with what he has seen around him under the new coaching staff.
"Right now, the way they look on the field, everybody is looking pretty comfortable and doing the things they are supposed to do," McKnight said.
The cornerback isn't quite sure when he'll be back at 100 percent and is still waiting to receive clearance to go full speed in practice.
"I'm not sure yet," McKnight said. "I got to be cleared, so I am not sure about that yet."
He isn't completely off the knee, as he is taking part in light workout and practice sessions.
"Right now I am just doing individual drills for my position," McKnight said. "When it comes to contact stuff I just go do other stuff."
McKnight is pleased with the progress he has made, but admits it has been rough watching everyone else around him play.
"It's been good," McKnight said. "It's just hard watching everybody doing what they love and I can't do it, but it's been going well for me. I'm just trying to get my knee stronger and be better at everything else that I do."
The coaching changes brought in plenty of questions from the incumbents on the roster, including McKnight. Now that everyone has become familiar with Rich Rodriguez and his staff, everyone is on the same page and working hard in preparation for the 2012 season.
"Coming in from the break it was different," McKnight said. "Everybody was wondering what we were going to do and now everyone got used to it. Now we are in the phase where we have to get bigger, better and stronger."
While being forced to watch from the sidelines a season ago, McKnight took time to watch and cheer on his teammates. He especially came away impressed with the play of true freshman athlete Tra'Mayne Bondurant, who was one of the top defensive freshmen in the Pac-12.
"I watched him play a lot," McKnight said. "He's a good natural player. He's a hard player, a hard worker and wants to be on the field."
Recovering from a serious football injury can seem like an eternity for an athlete. Fortunately for McKnight, he has had someone close to him that has shared the same injury to help guide him through this process.
"My mom kept me up," McKnight said. "She had ACL surgery. So she kept me up with all that."
So, how exactly did his mother tear her ACL?
"Playing softball," McKnight said. "We are an athletic family."
Jonathan McKnight is recovered from last season's knee injury and now ready to contribute. Read on…