Arizona interim head coach Tim Kish will have a short-handed secondary against Washington with four defensive backs suspended for at least half of the game, a result of their participation in Thursday night’s brawl against UCLA.
Kish reviewed video of the incident, talked to Pac-12 officials, and said Monday he agreed with the decision for the conference to hand down additional sanctions a day after the game.
“As I mentioned to the team after the game and at halftime, discipline is the cornerstone of where we’re at right now, and that was a lack of discipline. It was a little bit of a selfish reaction.
“You have to understand the bigger purpose — what’s best for the team. It’s unfortunate. From my opinion, it’s the right thing to do from the commissioner’s standpoint. It is something we’re going to have to deal with.”
The biggest issue is at cornerback. Starter Shaquille Richardson — who was ejected late in the first half against UCLA for fighting — is out for the Washington. His replacement, Lyle Brown, is suspended for the first half.
Arizona lists true freshman Cortez Johnson and sophomore Derrick Rainey as co-starters on this week’s depth chart. Johnson has been out for the past couple of weeks with injury, but is available, Kish said. Johnson looked good in fall camp, but almost all of his playing time has been on special teams.
With nickel back Jourdon Grandon suspended for the game, and backup safety Mark Watley out for the first half, look for true freshman Tramayne Bondurant to start at nickel back. Bondurant (5-10, 185) made his first start last week as a linebacker, when he was used a rover in a newly-installed flex defense.
The scheme put Bondurant in position to make plays — and he led the team with 10 tackles.
“Just the competitiveness he plays with,” Kish said, asked what he likes about Bondurant.
“He has some fire. He has great instincts. He can play a lot of positions for us … He had a heck of a job for just a week of practice understanding what was expected of him. We probably hid him away too long.”
Kish said he will considering moving a couple of offensive skill players to defensive back to help out in emergency situations, although he declined to specify which ones.
Arizona, which uses its nickel package the majority of the time, will have three starters available — cornerback Trevin Wade and safeties Robert Golden and Marquis Flowers.
Arizona will be going against Washington sophomore quarterback Keith Price, who has been excellent in his first season as a starter, replacing departed Jake Locker.
Price has completed 141 of 206 passes (68.45 percent) for 1,713 yards, with 22 touchdowns and five interceptions.
“I think the coaches up there would say he is actually running the offense better than what Locker did. I have heard that comment made several times” Kish said.
“He’s having a tremendous year. He throws the ball well. He moves well in the pocket. He doesn’t get himself in trouble. They have some real talent on that side of the ball.”