UA football makes bold move to shore up its defense


The Arizona Wildcats are coming off a major loss going into today’s football game with Oregon State.  But recovering from it won’t be as simple as moving on after playing a bad game.

Actually, the University of Arizona has lost its last three games.  But the Cats are going to have to rebound from something bigger in order to break through that losing streak.  They will go into battle today without their defensive coordinator.

Marcel Yates was fired earlier this week, along with linebackers coach, John Rushing.

Second-year head coach Kevin Sumlin, desperately seeking a way to salvage what’s left of a season going south, let Yates and Rushing go after inconsistent performance by the defensive unit that has contributed to a promising 4-1 start turning into a 4-4 record and 2-3 in Pac-12 play.

Arizona is still a couple of wins away from being bowl-eligible and a drastic measure at this point, with four games left on the regular-season schedule, might be enough to right the listing ship.

(*Update: The listing hasn’t been remedied.  Arizona’s offense ran and passed for a total 526 yards, but its defense allowed 572 yards in a 56-38 loss to the Beavers.  The Cats now need to win two of the last three games to become bowl-eligible.)

Their last three opponents combined for 133 points, including a 51-point barrage by the Washington Huskies.

Arizona’s offense is being productive, averaging 202 rushing yards a game and sporting nine receivers who have each collected 100 yards or more so far this season, best in the conference.  The Wildcats are 12th in the country and second in the conference in total offense at 492 yards per game.

Running back J.J. Taylor goes into today’s game with 3,030 rushing yards.

But stopping the other team from scoring has been a completely different story.

The dismissal of Yates had to be a particularly difficult decision for Sumlin since Yates came from Texas A&M, where he was on Sumlin’s staff.  Since the move came during the season, there is no time to go outside for a new DC, so Sumlin moved his defensive analyst, Chuck Cecil, into the role.

Since Cecil, a 15-year NFL veteran and former defensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans, is already on board, the transition should be seamless.  Hank Hobson, another analyst on Sumlin’s staff, will take over as linebackers coach.

Offense shouldn’t be a problem today.  Last year in Corvallis, the Wildcats rushed for 442 yards in a 35-14 win, and the year before the Cats piled up 534 yards.  That’s just shy of 1,000 yards in two games.

The question, of course, will be whether this bold move by Sumlin will make a difference on the other side of the ball.

By the end of the day today, we should have an answer to that question.

(Photo: Arizona Athletics/ Mike Christy))