The Arizona Wildcats’ defensive line was never going to be a great strength this season, and recent developments make the forecast more ominous.
Junior defensive tackle Justin Washington — who was a Freshman All-American before a sophomore slump — has been suspended for an unspecified violation of team rules, coach Rich Rodriguez said after Tuesday’s practice.
“He’s got to do some things to get back with the team,” Rodriguez said.
“For right now, he’s not practicing. He’s got to do some other things before we allow him to join the Wildcats.”
Washington was listed as a co-starter at defensive end with sophomore Kirifi Taula entering fall camp. Sophomore defensive end Dan Pettinato, a co-starter at the other end spot, suffered a leg injury in the team’s first scrimmage and could be out for the Sept. 1 opener vs. Toledo.
“It’s a shame he got hurt because we were really counting on him,” Rodriguez said.
“I don’t know if he will be available for Toledo, but he’s a guy that would be in the mix when he’s healthy.”
The first-teamers for much of the first scrimmage were senior ends Jowyn Ward and Dominique Austin, and junior defensive tackle Sione Tuihalamaka. Rodriguez said the Cats are working with a five- or six-man rotation, plus 260-pound Taimi Tutogi, who has transitioned in camp to be a two-way player.
Arizona will use Tutogi as a edge rusher in passing situations.
“He’s played a lot of (defensive end) in the last couple of weeks,” Rodriguez said. “In certain situations, we won’t hesitate at all to put him in there at defensive end.”
Last weekend, Rodriguez said, “Taimi might be our best pass rusher.”
Arizona’s returning defensive linemen recorded a total of two sacks last season.
Washington was a pass-rushing force as an interior linemen during his redshirt freshman season in 2010, when he made 11.5 tackles for loss, including six sacks. He suffered from weight loss last summer for what former coach Mike Stoops called a “stomach situation” and then hurt his knee late last season.
Washington had only 18 tackles last season after making 46 the year before.
Arizona hasn’t publicly updated its depth chart since before camp. A new one should be released late this week or early next week in advance of the season-opener.
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Senior safety Adam Hall, who has been rehabbing a torn ACL suffered in the spring game, wasn’t with the team during fall camp, when the roster is capped at 105 players. Now that classes have started at the university, what’s his status?
“I haven’t talked to him. I haven’t seen him,” Rodriguez said.
“He was here at the first team meeting, but he wasn’t allowed to be in the meeting because he wasn’t part of the 105. Since then, our trainers have tried to communicate with him, but we haven’t seen him yet.”
Rodriguez said he thinks he is scheduled to meet with Hall on Thursday.
Hall is a fourth-year player who should qualify for a medical redshirt for last season (when he played in one game because of an ACL injury) or this season, extending his eligibility, at Arizona or elsewhere. If he graduates in December, he could transfer to another school without having to sit out a year.
Or he could just work toward preparing in the spring for a professional career.