Introducing Arizona’s Top 10 Badass Players on both sides of the ballby Javier Morales on Oct. 06, 2011, under Sports
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With Arizona last in the Pac-12 in overall defense — and looking more like it is stumbling backward than trying to stand its ground — the Wildcats need to rethink what being a badass is all about.
It helps that fierce competitor and tackler Adam Hall might return from a knee injury when the Wildcats play at Oregon State on Saturday, but let’s not hold anything back any longer: The UA (1-4 overall, 0-3 in the Pac-12) needs to take on a badass mentality.
If I offend anyone with the word “badass”, I am sorry, but that tone is necessary. Yes, the Wildcats are inexperienced and their defense has been ravaged by injuries, but enough with the attempted one-arm tackles and reckless over-pursuits that make the Wildcats look clueless about how to attack the ball-handler.
Witnessing the Wildcats allow 37.6 points and 503.6 yards per game makes me long for yesteryear when the UA had badass players that comprised units such as Desert Swarm and those tough-as-nails defenses that Larry Smith produced annually.
This craving made me think of the UA’s most badass players since the program joined the Pac-10 in 1978. If only their spirit can take over the Wildcats. I will run a list of Arizona’s Top 10 badass players on offense and defense, starting today with the No. 10 Badass Wildcats. Enjoy.
No. 10: AL “BUBBA” GROSS, safety
Although he was nicknamed “Bubba” since his childhood days, former UA All-Pac-10 safety Al Gross was called something more fierce after completing his Wildcat career in 1982. In the week leading up the East-West Shrine game that year, Gross practiced against the East players, who labeled him “The Hitman”.
Gross, 50, played five years in the NFL before embarking on a coaching and training career, mostly at the high school-age level. He is director of Hitman Sports Training in Phoenix. The program trains prospective football players the physical and mental aspects of the game, taught by Gross and other former collegiate and NFL players.
Gross exuded mental toughness as a senior, when he was selected Arizona’s team captain. He was not afraid to get in the ear of his teammates. He also had a knack of always being on the spot with a relentless drive to get to the fumble or where the pass was thrown.
“A wise man once said that success is a planned event,” Gross, a third-team All-American in 1982, is quoted as saying at the Hitman Sports Web site. “In order to go further than the rest, you must be willing to do more in order to get there.”
No. 10 NICK FOLES, quarterback
Usually when a team yields a league-high total in sacks, the quarterback is shell-shocked and ineffective. Heck, the starting quarterback might be lost to injury in this circumstance.
Not Nick Foles. Despite the fact Arizona is tied for the dubious Pac-12 lead in sacks allowed, with Colorado at 13, Foles takes the opponents’ best punches and hits back with efficient passing.
Most of the time, his success comes from gritty “out-of-rhythm plays”, as suggested by USC coach Lane Kiffin.
“There’s so many times we almost have him,” Kiffin told the Los Angeles Daily News after the Trojans beat UA 48-41 last Saturday. “He makes so many out-of-rhythm plays. Moving around and making plays on the run.”
Oregon coach Chip Kelly labeled Foles a “warrior” after the senior quarterback stomached five sacks and still completed 34 of 57 passes for 398 yards in the UA’s 56-31 loss to the Ducks on Sept. 24 at Arizona Stadium.
Foles leads the Pac-12, which includes Stanford’s Andrew Luck and USC’s Matt Barkley, in passing yards per game (374.4), completion percentage (72 percent) and total offense yards per game (356). Despite the sacks and the hurried attempts, Foles has thrown only two interceptions, both coming last week at USC.
“I catch myself watching him in awe sometimes,” Kelly said. “Nick is a hell of a football player. That kid’s a warrior. He’s as good as anyone in the country.”