Arizona freshman linebacker Scooby Wright leads the Wildcats in tackles, which came as a surprise to him.
“Actually,” he said, “I didn’t even know that.”
Well, it’s more of a surprise in a general sense, that the only true new starter in UA’s defense is also first among tackles. Wright has made 28 tackles, one more than junior safety Jared Tevis.
Four of Wright’s tackles have been for loss.
“He’s a really good football player,” coach Rich Rodriguez said.
“We knew it when we signed him, but we didn’t know how quickly he was going to learn, particularly as a freshman, if anything would slow his progress as far as the learning curve.
“He has a natural feel for it and he’s a really good football player. He hasn’t even touched his ceiling yet.”
For now, Wright is an excitable puppy running around as fast as he can on defense. He said his biggest improvement will come in the mental part of the game — fully understanding the defense and reacting without thinking.
“It’s still not second-nature yet,” he said.
“I’m really focusing on the little mental details that help you. In high school, I had that down because I was in the system for four years. By the time I was a senior, I could do it in my sleep.
“Now, as a freshman, barely five months here (on campus), I’m just thrown into the fire, trying to learn it the best I can.”
Wright, who was only a two-star recruit out of Cardinal Newman High School in Windsor, Calif., is among the top true freshmen in the Pac-12. Here are 10 more:
Jared Goff, California, QB. He arrived for spring ball and won the job in the fall, becoming an immediate gunslinger for coach Sonny Dykes’ version of the Air Raid offense (yes, the “Bear” Raid). Goff is third nationally in passing yards (364.2) and has three games with at least 450 passing yards.
Addison Gillam, Colorado, LB. He leads the conference with 12.2 tackles per game (no other player is averaging double-digit stops). He set a school freshman record with 18 tackles, including two for loss, against Oregon on Saturday.
Myles Jack, UCLA, LB. He has joined a super group of linebackers (Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks, Jordan Zumwalt) in the Bruins’ 3-4 scheme, making an impact on the outside. Jack, athletic and rangy, has made 20 tackles and has defended a team-high seven passes through four games.
Su’a Cravens, USC, S. The next great Trojans safety, which isn’t a shock based on his high school accolades. He has two interceptions and a forced fumble to go with his 24 tackles.
Justin Davis, USC, RB. He’s coming off a game in which he ran 10 times for 122 yards and three touchdowns, including scores of 26 and 58 yards, at Arizona State. Davis, averaging 7.4 yards on 42 carries, helps give the Trojans a formidable backfield that includes Tre Madden and Silas Redd (expected to come back from injury this week vs. Arizona).
Eddie Vanderdoes, DL, UCLA. The five-star recruit signed with Notre Dame in February, but decided to enroll at UCLA in June … and the NCAA ruled him eligible for this season. He has 14 tackles, including two for loss.
Thomas Tyner, Oregon, RB. Tyner — who famously rushed for 643 yards rushing and 10 TDs in a high school game — is another blazing weapon for the Ducks. He is averaging 5.8 yards on 35 carries and has scored five touchdowns.
Daquawn Brown, Washington State, CB. The freshman from Los Angeles Dorsey High has made 30 tackles and intercepted two passes in six games. Brown had 11 tackles in WSU’s 10-7 upset at USC.
Alex Redmond, UCLA, RG. He has started all four games at right guard, an impressive accomplishment for an offense that is averaging 48.0 points per game.
Khalfani Muhammad, Cal, RB. The speedy all-purpose player — he’s a two-time California state champ for 100 and 200 meters — has 22 carries for 99 yards, six catches for 117 yards and is third in the league in kick returns with an average of 23.2 yards.