Bondurant proves to be impressive
SEATTLE — Before the 2011 season started, Tra’Mayne Bondurant had no idea he’d get a shot to be one of the Wildcats’ standouts on the defensive side of the ball. But after the defense struggled through the season’s first six games, Bondurant figured his chance would come soon.
“I kind of knew it was coming once I started seeing things breaking down out there,” Bondurant said. “I just made sure that I stayed focused and kept my attitude right just so when my time came, I could be in there to produce for the team.”
Bondurant’s first start came against UCLA, playing the rover position that’s required by the double-eagle defensive front the Wildcats implemented against the Bruins. He made an impact immediately, picking up the tackle on the game’s first three plays and finishing with a team-high eight tackles.
His success continued in Arizona’s 42-31 loss at Washington on Saturday, making eight tackles and picking up a sack while being used as both the rover and as Arizona’s nickel back.
While it may seem overwhelming for a freshman to play two different positions, especially on the road, Bondurant said he’s just glad that Arizona’s coaches have showed that kind of confidence in him.
“I was just out there doing whatever I could and just playing my hardest for the team,” Bondurant said. “It’s just preparation during the week. When it’s your time, you’ve got to step up.”
The Fairfield, Calif., native said several times that his number one goal is to play as hard as he can while having fun. As long as he does that, he said, the results will follow.
“This is what we all get recruited for,” Bondurant said. “I just go out there and play as hard as I can. I know I can go out there and perform if I just have fun.”
Bondurant’s playmaking hasn’t come without the typical mistakes that freshmen make, like missing assignments and being too aggressive at times. But his energy and playmaking ability more than makes up for the few mistakes he makes — at least while he’s still relatively inexperienced.
“It was a learning experience,” interim head coach Tim Kish said.
Bondurant’s early success is due in large part to his natural instincts as a defender, something that’s made a good impression on his teammates.
“That kid’s a great football player and he’s got a bright future ahead of him,” linebacker Paul Vassallo said. “He does it every day in practice with his energy and enthusiasm he brings. It livens up the defense and it all makes us play better.”
Johnson solid before suffering second concussion of season
Arizona entered Saturday’s game against Washington shorthanded in the secondary, and left the Evergreen State even worse off.
Safety Robert Golden missed a large chunk of the second half while suffering from severe dehydration after a 91-yard pick-six, and freshman cornerback Cortez Johnson — starting for suspended corner Shaquille Richardson — was concussed for the second time this season early in the fourth quarter, an injury that will likely end his season.
Johnson, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound freshman from New Orleans, made seven tackles and stayed with his receiver step-for-step for much of the night while seeing his first extensive action against Washington.
“I thought he did an admirable job,” Kish said. “I know he had some moments in there he’d like to take back, but who wouldn’t? That’s a tough situation to be in.”
Johnson’s size and length are somewhat abnormal for a cornerback, and are a big reason why many considered him the incoming freshman with the best chance to make an immediate impact.
“Cortez has a bright future ahead with his length and his speed and size,” Vassallo said. “He’s going to be a very good corner. It’s going to be a hard matchup for opposing receivers because the kid’s so long, and he’ll definitely learn to use that to his advantage.”