Mohammed Usman recounts his junior college exploits with a big smile, talking about sacking Cam Newton.
“That is a source of pride,” Usman said.
Usman, a new starter at defensive end for the Arizona Wildcats, will soon get a chance to add notches against Stanford’s Andrew Luck and a bunch of other top-flight quarterbacks on UA’s schedule. The production of Usman and the team’s other new starting end, C.J. Parish, will be critical to the defense’s success.
“It’s my last time to prove myself at the Division I level and show everybody I am capable of moving up to the next level,” said Usman, a senior who transferred from Navarro Community College in Texas after the 2009 season.
“I’m going to hold my own. I’m going to make sure every play the quarterback feels me, knows I am coming off that edge and make him think twice about running the ball my way. I have to instill that.
“Don’t run it my way, don’t throw it my way, don’t look my way, don’t even speak my way. My side is my side. That’s my edge. I don’t want anybody over there.”
Usman will get his chance to back up his words under the stadium lights and in the glow of the gigantic video board at Arizona Stadium on Saturday night against NAU.
Coaches have delivered positive reviews about Usman through camp.
“He’s just explosive,” said head coach Mike Stoops.
“He’s smart,” said defensive ends coach Jeff Hammerschmidt.
“He’s a specimen,” said Joe Salave’a, who oversees the entire defensive line.
That he is. Listed at 6-2, he’s not a tall and rangy. He’s thick, muscles bulging everywhere, spread over 245 pounds.
“All I do is work hard,” he said.
He spent his true freshman season as a backup defensive end at Houston, but the NCAA questioned the score on his entrance exam, a problem that dogged him through his transfer to Arizona. He was deemed ineligible for nine games, and then he missed a 10th because of a knee injury.
Usman played in the final three games of last season, making two tackles.
So, this is his only chance to prove himself over a full season.
There isn’t much other choice for Arizona. There is no experience behind Usman and Parish, who each have just a little of it.
“I’m blessed to be in this position I am in now,” he said, “and I’m going to take every day like it’s my last.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the 21st installment of our 24 Hours of Arizona Football Blogging — one post at the top of every hour. Keep checking back at TucsonCitizen.com through Friday at 11 a.m. or follow the entire series with the “24 hours of blogging” tag.