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Passion and instincts make Arizona safety Bondurant a playmaker

Tra'Mayne Bondurant sings "Bear Down Arizona" after Friday's win over NAU. Photo by Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

Tra’Mayne Bondurant sings “Bear Down Arizona” after Friday’s win over NAU. Photo by Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Wildcats’ Tra’Mayne Bondurant barely played beyond special teams as a freshman until Tim Kish took over as interim head coach halfway through the 2011 season.

Since then, Bondurant has started 19 of 20 games, missing only the New Mexico Bowl because of injury.

Kish, who took over for fired Mike Stoops, often raved about Bondurtant’s passion. Second-year UA coach Rich Rodriguez praises Bondurant’s instincts.

Passion and instincts? That’s a pretty good combination for a playmaking defender.

That’s what Bondurant, Arizona’s “spur” safety was in Friday night’s season-opening 35-0 win over NAU. He intercepted two passes, returning one for a touchdown, and tied for the team-high with seven tackles, including one for loss.

The Pac-12 selected Bondurant as its Defensive Player of the Week.

“Some guys just have a feel and recognize things quicker,” Rodriguez said Monday.

“I think all the best defensive players just recognize things a little bit quicker and have a way about shedding blocking or getting around blocks or making plays. That’s what Tra’Mayne does.

“He has good size, but he is not overwhelming with his strength or speed or anything. He just has great, great instincts. He is one of the guys defensively who probably has as good of instincts as anybody we have on the team.”

Bondurant (5-10, 198) made 74 tackles last season, including 11.5 for loss, the second-best total on the team. He intercepted two passes and forced two fumbles.

The spur — a hybrid safety/outside linebacker — should be a playmaking position in coordinator Jeff Casteel’s 3-3-5 defense.

“You have to be strong enough in the run game, especially on the perimeter, and then be able to cover, too. Whether we go zone coverage or man coverage, you have to be able to run in space,” Rodriguez said.

“Tra’Mayne, in particular, plays a position where there is a lot of quick recognition. He has to be really good with his eyes, make sure his eyes are in the right place and seeing things, because he’s out there in space.

“Nowadays … pretty much everyone is going to spread you out and put those guys in a bind and make sure they’re really disciplined on their fundamentals and their techniques.”

Bondurant’s 23-yard interception return for a touchdown against Arizona was the second score of his career. He took a pick against Colorado for a 29-yard score in 2011.

“Getting a touchdown on defense is always good,” he said of Friday’s score. “I got the interception just off of playing hard so my coach will be happy for that.”

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