The Arizona Wildcats have not really been known for their defense since Rich Rodriguez took over three seasons ago, though these days few talk about the team without mentioning linebacker Scooby Wright III.
The Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year as well as the winner of the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, the Jack Lambert Award and the Chuck Bednarik Award last season, Wright has emerged as one of the most dominant defenders not only in the Pac-12, but the entire country.
Last season, as a sophomore, he tallied 163 total tackles with 29 for loss and 14 sacks while also forcing six fumbles.
In no small part due to Wright’s presence, when ESPN’s Chantel Jennings decided to judge Arizona’s linebackers as a group, she put them in the ‘Great Shape’ category.
Arizona: When the best player in the conference and one of the best in the nation is in your position group, you’ll find yourself in the “great shape” category. At this point, I think Scooby Wright could find himself playing next to a few Pac-12 Blog writers and he’d still make the Arizona linebackers look good. Good thing Cody Ippolito, Jake Matthews and Derrick Turituri are far better linebackers than any of the Pac-12 Bloggers. Don’t get it confused though — the headliner of this show is Wright, and his supporting cast is more than solid. The Wildcats could be a top five rush defense in the Pac-12 just a season after finishing second-to-last.
Amazingly, the thoughts on Wright may be less hyperbole than fact.
As for the linebackers mentioned who aren’t Wright, there is talent even if there isn’t much flash.
Ippolito, a redshirt junior, finished last season with 52 total tackles along with one sack, while Matthews, a junior, had 29 tackles and one sack. Turituri, also a junior, had 44 total tackles, three sacks and one fumble recovery last year.