The Arizona Wildcats are expected to get back junior defensive lineman Dan Pettinato for the start of conference play at Washington on Sept. 28.
Pettinato has been rehabbing a knee injury that kept him out through spring and fall camps.
“He’s full-go,” coach Rich Rodriguez said after Wednesday’s practice. “Ready to go to Washington.”
Pettinato (6-4, 271) started nine games last season — five at tackle and four at end. He made 34 tackles in 11 games.
“He’s an experienced guy and a really good player,” Rodriguez said. “We were fortunate to get by without him. … Having Dan back is a big key for us.”
Arizona has started senior Sione Tuihalamaka at end and junior Reggie Gilbert at tackle in the first three games. Senior Tevin Hood has anchored the nose guard position, where Rodriguez is still hopeful of getting freshman Luca Bruno cleared by the NCAA. The Wildcats are looking for depth behind Hood.
Rodriguez said the coaches have eased Pettinato back into practice in the past couple of weeks, but there are no more limitations.
“If he can play, that would be huge,” said senior linebacker Jake Fischer. “He’s a big body. He commands a lot of double teams. He can pass rush. He’s great in the run game. If he’s playing, it’s going to be a huge plus for us.”
In other injury news, junior receiver David Richards suffered a slight setback in his rehab from a foot injury, which could keep him out until Sunday. Richards, who has been running in recent practices, has not played this season.
“We’re hoping he can play some next weekend,” Rodriguez said.
Richards is the team’s top returning wideout after catching 29 passes for 298 yards last season. The 6-4, 214-pound sophomore will give the Cats a needed experienced player on the outside.
“It’s a little bit of a comfort level as a coach because you know you have a guy who knows exactly what he’s doing. He’s going to be where he’s supposed to be,” said receivers coach Tony Dews.
“Getting into the league, he’s played against some of these corners before, so he knows what to expect.”