Inside 'The Unit', The Secondary

Mike and Mark Stoops are known for their great ability to coach defensive backs. Both have become known for putting defensive back after defensive back into the NFL and so far at Arizona they are continuing that path. In this week's Inside ‘The Unit', we will look at the defensive secondary of the Wildcats.

The headliner in the secondary for the Wildcats is senior cornerback Antoine Cason. Cason has never missed a start in his Wildcat career and he has started all 39 games in which he has been eligible to start. Cason has progressed from a talented starting true freshman to the potential All-American he is today. It is rare for teams to throw to his side of the field due to his great cover ability but what separates Cason from many other talented corners in the country is his solid ability to play close to the line in run support.

With the recent injury to safety Dominic Patrick the idea of moving Cason to safety was thrown out as a possibility. That move will not happen for the time being but the fact that it was seriously thought about, even for a day or two, shows just how much confidence the Stoops brothers have in Cason.

Opposite Cason is fellow senior, and four year starting corner, Wilrey Fontenot. Fontenot is a solid option opposite Cason. Wilrey is a solid cover corner and has very good ability to hit despite his small stature as he stands just 5 feet, 9 inches tall. Fontenot is fast and has solid recovery speed. While he has not progressed as much as Cason has, Fontenot still has a shot to be All-Conference and he also has a legitimate shot at being drafted in next April's NFL Draft.

Devin Ross has seen his playing time at corner go up as he has taken some of Fontenot's playing time away from him. Ross getting more time does not speak to a lack of effectiveness by Fontenot but rather how far Ross has been able to come. With both Fontenot and Cason gone after this season, Ross has aligned himself to be one of the starters next season. Devin is another Antoine Cason waiting to happen. He has better speed that Antoine but he is a bit smaller and less effective in run support but he knows how to hit and can bring the wood.

JUCO transfer Marquis Hundley has seen limited time this season due to Fontenot and Cason's lock on their positions. Hundley has the talent but has the unfortunate situation of being on the same roster as other guys with a similar level of talent. Hundley is a bigger corner and has great foot speed and recovery speed. Hundley is a go to guy for next season and will battle for one of the spots vacated by the seniors.

Freshman Trevin Wade, who is red shirting, is another cornerback that the Stoops brothers will look to in the future. Many great things are being said about the youngster form Texas as he has really made big waves in his first few months on campus. If the Cats are successful and are in fact able to red shirt Wade, the program will be much better for it. Physically Wade is a hybrid of Fontenot and Cason with speed and a natural ability to cover.

At the safety spot things are a little more confusing and a lot more crowded. The Cats have no fewer than six guys with game experience. The most impressive thing is that all six guys have impressed in their game experience. Junior Dominic Patrick was recently dinged up and will be forced to sit for a few weeks which opens up his spot in the secondary. Losing Patrick hurts from a physical stand point because Dominic is such a physical presence. He is one of those safeties that forces opposing wide receivers to get jelly arms when they dare to go over the middle.

Cam Nelson and Corey Hall have both been impressive in their time this season. Nelson has manned the nickel back spot and Hall has been roving at both of the safety spots but has been a mainstay at strong safety. Nelson is a perfect nickel as he has free safety ability and a linebacker mentality. He loves to hit but has the ability to cover and recover.

Hall has been all over the field this season. He patiently waited his turn and now his time is here and he is making the best of every second of it. Hall has totaled 18 tackles including one for loss. Hall has also forced two fumbles, a number that should be three save the first play of the New Mexico game that was not called correctly.

Brandon Tatum is finally seeing the field more this season and he has been up and down but mostly up. Tatum is one of those ‘freak' athletes that has to harness his amazing athleticism and make himself into a football player. Tatum is tall, quick and has gotten very strong but injuries have hampered his career so far. Tatum has great bloodlines as he is the nephew of former NFL All-Pro defensive back Jack Tatum and his brother, Bobby, signed with the University of Texas a year ahead of Brandon out of high school.

Michael Klyce and JUCO transfer Nate Ness are the other two safeties with some game experience. Klyce surprised many folks with his play last season when he was pressed into action due to injuries. Klyce has the ability to play at this level, as he has shown, but he is just buried on a very talented and deep depth chart at safety.

Ness came to Arizona with a ton of ball hawking accolades and in his limited time on the field this season he has shown the fans why. Nate has not played much but he has already picked off one pass. Ness will always be challenging the guys in front of him for playing time and he could easily, at some point, steal the starting free safety spot.

The Lineup :

Antoine Cason, Senior CB

Wilrey Fontenot, Senior CB

Devin Ross, Sophomore CB

Marquis Hundley, Junior CB

Trevin Wade, Freshman CB (Red Shirting)

Dominic Patrick, Senior FS

Corey Hall, Junior SS/DB

Brandon Tatum, Junior DB/FS

Cam Nelson, Sophomore NB/DB

Nate Ness, Junior FS/DB

Michael Klyce, Junior SS/DB

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