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NCAA Football

Arizona Wildcats Football: DE Justin Washington Suspended, Likely to Miss Opener

The next school to land on the bad news square of the roulette table is Arizona. Junior defensive lineman Justin Washington has been indefinitely suspended for violating team rules as reported by Ryan Finley of the Arizona Daily Star.

Unfortunately for Wildcat fans, the Cypress, Texas product was a projected starter for Rich Rodriguez’s defense. Washington was likely to be a consistent presence on the quirky 3-3-5 alignment that Rodriguez is known for implementing.

Considering that Arizona is returning only four starters on defense, losing an experienced player is a heavy blow. According to Washington’s profile on the Arizona team page, he registered 15 starts in his career. Washington is not only experienced, he is talented.

A breakout redshirt freshman season earned the lineman First-Team Freshman All-American honors by The Sporting News and College Football News. His sophomore season was a step back statistically, recording 18 tackles as opposed to his 46 in 2010.

According to the Daily Star article, Rodriguez is leaving the door open for Washington’s possible return to the program.

With the season so close to beginning, any chance of Washington being on the field for the opener against Toledo on Sept. 1 are unlikely. Where it gets interesting is the next week, when the Wildcats host Oklahoma State.

If Washington is unavailable when the Cowboys visit Tucson, he definitely did something to earn the ire of Rodriguez.

Exactly who will fill in for the departed 6’2,” 268 pound tackle/end hybrid is unclear. Junior Sione Tuihalamaka, senior Willie Mobley and sophomore Kirifi Taula, would be the likely candidates to rotate through the line. In the end, it is up to Rodriguez and defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel as to how they want to plug the hole.

Another program has been hit with the injury and suspension bug. It is a matter of when, not if, the next incident will occur.

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James Gomez is a Pac-12 and Mountain West columnist for Rant Sports and member of the Football Writers Association of America

You can follow James on Twitter as well.