The Arizona Wildcats enjoyed a lot more success than they anticipated under first year head coach Rich Rodriguez. Despite their eight wins, including a thrilling bowl game win over the Nevada Wolfpack, Arizona had serious questions about their defense. As they try and improve in 2013 and keep pace with a competitive Pac 12 South Division, sophomore Wayne Capers may step into a major role next fall.
There isn’t much room for the Wildcats defense to go but up after finishing No. 105 in scoring defense last season. Rodriguez found some difficulty while transitioning Arizona into his preferred 3-3-5 defense, but the group made some strides and Capers returns after getting some excellent experience in 2012.
As a true freshman last season, Capers played in 11 games getting most of his reps on special teams. He cracked the rotation in the secondary, however, as the season wore on and got some reps at safety and even started one game at the “spur” position in the bowl game win against Nevada. He finished the year with 12 tackles, including seven in his only start against the Wolfpack, with a pass breakup and a forced fumble.
He accomplished all of that while battling an intestinal disorder. With a clean bill of health this spring along with his year of experience, Rodriguez is expecting much more out of Capers this season:
“ He’s a good athlete and he has some experience so I’m expecting him to improve quite a bit. At times he looked like a freshman running around. I tell the freshmen, “if you don’t know where you’re going then run in place”. We had a few freshmen doing that. He also showed his athleticism at times. He’s a quiet guy but as he grows into his role, I think he can have a good career here.”
Rodriguez needs to find some great athletes to man his defense, which is predicated on confusing offenses with multiple looks and bringing pressure from every angle. Getting athletic defenders on the field in as many positions as possible will only make the defense more potent, which will go a long way in continuing the Wildcats’ success that started last season.
There is plenty of work still to do to get the Arizona defense into a respectable state, but having an athlete like Wayne Capers step up in a major way next season will be an important first step.