Arizona has struggled quite a bit in their ability to get to the quarterback in recent years and much of the problem has been blamed on a lack of talent on the edge. While that is has been true in the past, it has not been the case the past couple of seasons. The Cats have built a pretty impressive group of defensive ends to man the corners of the defensive line.
In the opening game against BYU the Wildcat defensive ends performed reasonably well under the circumstances. Facing a Cougar offense designed to get rid of the ball quickly it is hard to get to the quarterback with any regularity, even when blitzing. The Cats were able to get to BYU starting quarterback Max Hall a couple of times and they had a slew of near misses. Between the quick release set up of the Cougar offense and the offensive line splits that spread the defensive line out it is hard to get to the quarterback when facing that style of offense.
Arizona has their headliner in senior defensive end Louis Holmes. Holmes had a decent game against the Cougars last Saturday but did not have near the game that he is capable of having. Holmes has all of the tools to be not only an All-American defensive end but he has the potential to be an All-Pro end at the next level.
Holmes has the speed, athleticism and power to be the best at the position but it seems the only thing holding him back from being a consistently great football player is attitude. His unwillingness to ‘bring it’ on every play, whether in practice or in a game, is a serious fault point in his game. There is no question that his attitude has gotten better in the past year but some improvement isn’t what is needed. Holmes is full of potential and pride and maybe it would be a smart thing for him to hang around fellow senior defensive end Jason Parker.
Parker is a football player. He does not have the athleticism, strength or speed of Holmes but what he lacks in those categories, he more than makes up for with heart and determination. Parker never quits and always listens and tries to learn. Parker’s improvement throughout his career has been impressive to watch. Defensive ends coach Joe Robinson has always had great things to say about Parker and how he works and how he approaches his job. He takes great pride in learning and being the best he can be at the position. While he knows his limitations he still strives to push himself to stretch his limitations thinner and thinner.
Junior end Jonathan Turner has had an injury riddled and up and down career as a Wildcat so far. Originally a USC commit, Turner, like Holmes, has all the tools needed to become a great defensive end. He has the speed and the power and the athleticism to be a great edge rusher and he is just now starting to put it all together. Finally healthy he has improved a great amount in the past six months and we have seen him develop his trade and we should be in for a fun ride the next two seasons watching him continue to grow. Turner listens more and more as he gains confidence in his own abilities on the field. Starting opposite Holmes also helps him because Holmes does demand double teams and often Turner finds himself with just one man to beat.
Outside the top three upper classmen the Wildcats are very raw and very talented at the end position. Red shirt freshman Ricky ‘Rockstar’ Elmore got his first official playing time at the college level last week and he graded out pretty well. He did not get a huge amount of snaps to prove himself but he is the legitimate fourth man in the ends rotation now. Elmore has all the tools needed to be a great college defensive end. He has the speed and athleticism and work ethic to make himself into a great defender at this level.
Another red shirt freshman, D’Aundre Reed, has been hampered early this fall with a bad bruise and he missed his first available playing time this week against BYU. Reed should be available for duty against NAU this next week and depending on how close the game is he could see a ton of action and really get some good experience. Reed is as athletic a defensive end as you will ever see. He has a legitimate ability to play linebacker if needed to he has the speed and since stepping foot on campus and working with the strength coaches he has gotten much stronger. Reed needs to continue to listen and he needs to play confident and strong each and every day in practice. Like many younger players he can get frustrated easily and start to care less but he needs to fight through that and keep confident in his own abilities and listen to his coaches. Reed has enormous potential and if he sticks with his ala Jason Parker he could leave Arizona as a high draft pick.
True freshman defensive end Ron Jackson is out for the year since dislocating his hip during the first week of fall camp. Jackson was set to most likely red shirt anyways but the injury will set his development back some. According to all that know him Jackson has the right attitude and the necessary tools to be a solid defender at the college level. He has the speed to be a very good edge rush and he has the early strength and more importantly the body to build himself into a powerful force on the edge.
The Arizona Wildcats have a solid group of defensive ends. This group may be the most talented they have had since the vaunted Desert Swarm years they just need to put it together as a collective group. From the ‘Superstar’ Louis Holmes to the ‘Rockstar’ Ricky Elmore the Cats have a fine group and ends coach Joe Robinson has been so far pleased with their development as a group. The defensive ends need to put more pressure on the opposing quarterbacks in 2007 because a repeat of the lackluster sack numbers from a year ago will hurt the team and the program as it moves forward in search of their first bowl game since 1998.
Louis Holmes, Senior
Jonathan Turner, Junior
Jason Parker, Senior
Ricky Elmore, RS Freshman
D’Aundre Reed, RS Freshman
Ron Jackson, Freshman (red shirting)