Arizona football linebackers need to be more focused in 2013
No excuses for a lack of focus
If defense wins championships, then Arizona was far from a championship contender last season. The Wildcats were ranked No. 118 in the nation in total defense, dead last in the Pac-12 conference.
The centerpiece of a defense tends to be the linebackers. With this being his final spring football season, senior linebacker Jake Fischer is taking it amongst himself to help lead the young Arizona linebacking corps.
“[Linebackers] do a lot out on field,” Fischer said. “It’s important to be smart, focused and know what you’re looking for.”
On defense, the UA had a mishmash of veterans to walk-on freshman play in 2012. Young and inexperienced players such as walk-on Sir Thomas Jackson were forced to play at linebacker despite their inexperience. Jackson played in all 13 games for the Wildcats and finished the season with 58 tackles, tied for fifth on the team.
Luckily for Fischer, all of his fellow starting linebackers are returning in 2013, but if they slip, they’ll first have to face Fischer.
“This being my last spring practice I really want to make sure I do all I can before it’s too late,” Fischer said. “If I have to get in a guy’s face and make sure he knows he’s not performing up to a level we need him to, then I’ll make sure I let him know with some tough love.”
Fischer doesn’t appear worried about the talent Arizona has on defense, but reassured because of his attention to detail.
The Wildcats are using this spring to not only get into better shape, but also make sure individuals are sharp with their fundamentals and execution.
“It’s a defensive mind-state we have to get to as a team,” junior spur Tra’Mayne Bondurant said. “We just got to focus, know we got to watch more film and get better at all aspects.”
Fischer couldn’t agree more. The team’s leading tackler in 2012 sees spring football as a perfect opportunity for his linebacking corps to get rid of the mistakes they made last year. Fischer understands many of the younger players’ struggles with focus as he was once in their shoes.
In 2013, Fischer doesn’t want to see his linebackers go through that again, especially under his watch, but for now it seems they’re still a long way from the goal.
“With some of the younger guys the attention and the detail just aren’t there yet,” Fischer said. “And I can understand when you’re tired, but in practice and games young guys kind of forget the fundamentals because they’re so juiced they’re all over the place.”
With many returning starters from 2012 the Wildcats’ defense should be a little more comfortable now in second year head coach Rich Rodriguez’s 3-3-5 “Odd stack” scheme defense, but comfort doesn’t cut it.
“A goal is to get to the Rose Bowl before I leave and we’re not there yet,” Fischer said. “Now that we’re all comfortable with the new scheme, myself included, we need to get a lot better and I need to take it amongst myself to get these guys ready.”