Golden’s new opportunity comes at cornerback for Wildcatsby Anthony Gimino on Aug. 17, 2010, under Sports
If the Arizona Wildcats’ season began today, junior Robert Golden would be a starting cornerback.
The coaches have mixed and matched their secondary personnel since the spring, looking for the right combinations. In fall camp, they continue to see what a pair of freshmen — safety Marquis Flowers and cornerback Shaquille Richardson — can do.
But there is a time to gather information and a time to make decisions, and it’s definitely the latter for the Wildcats. With the Sept. 3 opener at Toledo looming, the coaches have to settle on a defensive lineup and try to establish camaraderie with that unit.
And so Golden, who arrived at Arizona as a four-star cornerback but was the starting strong safety last season, is back at cornerback in the team’s base set.
“We have moved him from corner to safety to nickel, and we’re not doing that anymore,” said co-defensive coordinator Tim Kish.
“We’re not making excuses, but there are guys playing too many multiple positions, and you can’t get comfortable at one. That was part of the plan because we just had to find how we were going to rotate the best 11 in on defense.
“Now, we’re kind of locking in on that.”
Based on Monday’s two-a-day practices, Golden and junior Trevin Wade (second-team All-Pac-10 last season) would be the starting cornerbacks. Seniors Joseph Perkins and Anthony Wilcox would be the starting safeties.
Flowers and sophomore Adam Hall have been seeing plenty of practice time at safety, with Richardson and senior Marcus Benjamin — a projected starter entering camp — working mostly as second-team cornerbacks.
Said Golden: “I feel a lot more comfortable at cornerback because that’s the position I have been playing my whole life. When I started to play safety, I was really getting the feel for it, learning the position a lot. But playing the corner position, that is where I feel most comfortable.”
Arizona, as it did last year, could very well play a lot of nickel coverage, so the coaches still have to sort through the personnel there. Flowers and Hall have great size and athleticism, and they can play close to the line of scrimmage or in coverage.
Each youngster gets his fair share of praise from coaches speaking to the media after practice, but they also get an earful of criticism during practice as they try to get a handle on the mental part of the job.
As for Golden, he’s now a veteran and needs to be a leader of the group. He made 41 tackles and two interceptions last season.
He figures his cross-training in the secondary will only make him a better cornerback.
“It’s been great for me, learning all these other positions because I know where my help is going to be,” he said. “It’s helped me a lot by playing nickel and then dime and then playing safety.”
He says he’s looking forward to the one-on-one challenges at cornerback — will Arizona alter some of its zone coverage approach with the departure of coordinator Mark Stoops? — and the position does require the ultimate confidence and ego.
As such, he says he’s been brushing up on his trash-talking.
“Yes, I am,” Golden said. “That’s what I try to do — get after the receivers on one-on-ones and let them know I am back at corner.”