The Arizona Wildcat football team began spring drills last week and have a number of questions to answer, especially on the defensive side of the ball. One of the biggest questions involves the defensive line.
QUESTION: Can Arizona replace Earl Mitchell and Donald Horton?
Answer: The Wildcats lose two of their top three defensive tackles, and while they will not be easy to replace, all is not lost. The Cats have a lot of quality bodies, even if they are relatively inexperienced.
The Cats return starter Mana Mikaele and Dominique Austin who saw a lot of time last fall. Austin will miss spring drills but will be full strength by the time fall camp opens.
Wildcat coaches are high a number of players including JC transfer Jonathan Hollins. Hollins was a JC transfer last year but was able to redshirt and still has two years of eligibility remaining.
Also impressing the staff is redshirt freshman Justin Washington. He’s another big, athletic tackle. He isn’t a huge run stopper, but could be a very similar player to Mitchell.
Jowyn Ward has seen action the past two seasons, but has yet to be more than a role player. Ward is one of the strongest players on the team as well the second biggest of the interior defensive linemen.
Chris Merrill is another big body inside that has impressed and Sione Tuihalamaka is arguably the fastest, most athletic of the big guys inside.
This group will need to impress in the fall. The Cats signed four defensive tackles in the recruiting class. Ohio State (via a JUCO) transfer Willie Mobley has been brought in to play right away and the Cats are high on the three freshmen, especially Kirifi Taula and Sani Fuimaono. While they’d love to redshirt all three, they won’t hesitate to play them if they are ready.