It’s easy to see that defensive line will continue to be an area of need for the Arizona Wildcats after this season following the graduation of starters Tevin Hood and Sione Tuihalamaka.
Backup Justin Washington is also a senior.
The 2014 recruiting class could offer some help, including junior college transfer Jeff Worthy, who began his career at Boise State. He has the size (6-3, 285) and experience to be a factor.
And coach Rich Rodriguez still has his fingers crossed that a pair of big defensive linemen – Aiulua Fanene and Sani Fuimaono — will return to the team after completing their two-year church missions. They left the team in the spring of 2012 and haven’t been coached by Rodriguez.
“We’re assuming they are,” Rodriguez said of the players’ return. “We’ve had very limited contact other than an email here and there.”
Rodriguez added that he didn’t think Fanene and Fuimaono would be able to return until after next spring.
They each played around 300 pounds in 2011 as freshmen. Fanene, from American Samoa, made eight tackles, including 1.5 for loss, and forced a fumble. Fuimaono, from Kaneohe, Hawaii, had seven tackles, including one for loss. He started twice.
Hood is the only 300-pounder on the UA’s defensive front right now; as such, he’s been a key player, making 24 tackles from his nose guard position.
“He’s kind of the anchor in the middle,” Rodriguez said.
“He’s got tendinitis in his knee. He’s got different ailments in his shoulder, back, whatever. … Tevin is a tough guy. He’s been great against the run. We gotta get some more push against the pass but he’s been great against the run.
“He’s one of the toughest we’ve got.”