Halfway through the season, you don’t expect suddenly to be talking about a two-star freshman recruit who didn’t have any other Pac-12 scholarship offers.
You don’t expect to be talking about a two-star freshman recruit who is mostly learning a new position in college.
You don’t expect to be talking about a two-star freshman recruit who hardly played in the first six games.
Hey, let’s talk about the Arizona Wildcats’ Tramayne Bondurant.
The 5-foot-10, 185-pound freshman has been a revelation in the past two games, as in “Where has he been all season?”
No more worries about that.
As interim head coach Tim Kish said Monday, “He won’t come off the field the rest of the year.”
Bondurant was mostly buried on the secondary depth chart in the first half of the season, although he played on special teams. Then Kish decided to deploy Bondurant in a playmaking rover position when the coaches decided to use the old run-stuffing double-eagle flex scheme against UCLA.
Bondurant had eight tackles, one for loss.
He started last week at nickel back against Washington, again making eight tackles, including a sack, and breaking up two passes.
Even Bondurant, who will be the nickel back against Utah on Saturday, said he wasn’t expecting to be playing this much.
“I knew my opportunity would come,” he said after Monday’s practice.
“I just had to wait it out. I just had to stay working hard in practice and stay focused. I tried not to get frustrated. When my opportunity came I was happy I got my chance.”
Bondurant was a standout quarterback at Fairfield (Calif.) High School, finishing last season with 1,906 passing yards and 1,011 rushing yards. He accounted for 37 touchdowns. He also made 102 tackles last season, mostly as a linebacker.
Arizona coaches saw him at their skills camp in the summer of 2010, and immediately liked him as a cornerback, prompting a scholarship offer.
Kish said Bondurant caught the coaches’ eyes in fall camp, when they tried to find a place for Bondurant.
“We had him at nickel. We had him at corner. I always wanted to put him at linebacker, especially because of the (lack of) depth that we had,” Kish said. “But it was just too early there in the beginning of the fall to do that.”
Bondurant now joins the discussion in what could be a stellar secondary in the near future, even after the loss of senior cornerback Trevin Wade and senior safety Robert Golden.
Consider this lineup for next season. Cornerback: Shaquille Richardson, Jonathan McKnight, Cortez Johnson. Safety: Adam Hall, Marquis Flowers, Josh Robbins, Mark Watley. Cornerback/safety/nickelback: Jourdon Grandon, Bondurant.
Among that group, only Watley will be a senior next season.
In the meantime, Bondurant will soak up as much experience as he can handle the rest of this season.
“I just try to have fun out there,” he said.
“Playing hard makes you have a good edge on the field. My teammates vibe off me and the energy, even in practice. … “You just have to be focused and not have a negative attitude. That’s when you have a lot of mistakes.”
Although he does have a background of playing high school defense, he credits being a quarterback with honing his instincts.
“I know how a lot of people react on that side of the ball to certain things,” he said. “That helps reading receivers and covering. When I see the ball I just go. It’s an instinct thing. I don’t hesitate because you can lose a lot of plays in hesitating.”
Those instincts have helped make him a playmaker in the past two weeks for a UA defense that has been in need of playmakers all season.
It looks as if Bondurant — whose primary recruiter was special teams coordinator Jeff Hammerschmidt — will be a nice present the current staff leaves behind for a new head coach.
“He has a passion to play the game of football,” Kish said.
“He wears it on his sleeve. He’s excitable. He’s young. He doesn’t know any better, and I love that. That’s great stuff. He competes on every play. He is a playmaker.”