Among all the things that have gone wrong for Arizona’s defense so far — injuries, the inability to stop the run and allowing opponents to complete more than 71 percent of their passes — is the relative disappearance of tackle Justin Washington.
The sophomore was the one potential standout on the defensive line, a Freshman All-American who made 11.5 tackles for loss, including six sacks, last season. He earned various all-conference honors in preseason magazines this summer.
He was supposed to be the rock up front. With nine career starts, he was the only guy on either side of Arizona’s line who could be considered a returning starter.
Last week, he didn’t even start.
He gave way freshman Sanielia Fuimaono, who is listed as a co-starter with Washington for this week’s game at USC.
“Just everything,” coach Mike Stoops said Monday, asked why Washington didn’t start against Oregon.
“Just not playing as well as he needs to. Lost a bunch of weight in the offseason.”
Washington is listed at 6-foot-2 and 280 pounds, which might not reflect any weight loss from last season.
Regarding that weight loss, Stoops said Washington “had a stomach situation that bothered him in the latter part of the summer and then in camp.”
Washington, who has 10 tackles, started the first two games of the season at defensive tackle. He started at end against Stanford because Mohammed Usman was out with an ankle injury, and because the coaches wanted a bigger player at that spot against Stanford’s power running game.
Stoops said Washington won’t be moving to defensive end, however.
He says missed assignments, youth and poor tackling have led to struggles against the run. Arizona ranks 114th nationally out of 120 teams in rush defense, allowing 233.5 yards per game. The only sack UA has had in the past three games was attributed to “team” when Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden fell down.
“We haven’t been great up front,” Stoops said. “Just no plays, no sacks, no turnovers.”