The Arizona Wildcats are looking to take the next step in year two under Rich Rodriguez and make a run towards the top of the Pac 12. To do it, they’ll need to take major steps on the defensive side of the ball. They will be helped by getting back 20 players in 2013 who started at least one game in 2012, which is the good news. The bad news is that same group of players struggled a lot last year. They need a turnaround next fall, led by tackling machine Jake Fischer at linebacker.
Last season, Fischer led the team with 119 tackles, good for No. 3 in the conference. He added 6.5 tackles for loss, three quarterback pressures and forced three fumbles. As he gets more experience in the 3-3-5 defense of Rodriguez, he will be put in position to make even more plays in 2013, and the Wildcats will need him in order for the defense to make some stops to support their high-powered offense.
Offensively speaking, Arizona should have been a major player down the stretch for the Pac 12 title. They finished 2012 as the No. 15 scoring offense in college football, averaging 38.2 points per game. They were routinely undercut, however, by their porous defense, which ranked as the No. 105 scoring defense in the country, allowing a preposterous 35.3 points per game.
Rodriguez designs his defense to allow his linebackers to run free and make plays. Fischer did very well with his first season in the system, but has to get even better in 2013 to be a difference-maker next season and lead a turnaround for the Wildcats’ defense.