Sharing a number with a teammate in college football is common, with programs across the country required to partake in the practice due to large rosters and limited two-digit number options on jerseys.
While some newer Arizona football fans may wonder how No. 14 never seems to take a play off, those who watch closely understand what is going on.
Arizona’s sophomore defensive standout Kylan Wilborn is one of two players who wear No. 14 for the Wildcats. Wilborn has worn that number since he stepped on the field as a Wildcat and racked up 7.5 sacks in his freshman campaign, but he just so happens to share No. 14 with another well-known player on the team — A quarterback named Khalil Tate, if the name rings a bell.
But Wilborn is looking to make a name for himself in his own right. Playing the “stud” linebacker position for the Wildcats, his impressive freshman year garnered recognition in the form of Freshman All-American honors from the Football Writers Association of America and USA Today.
This numerical duality mentioned above is one that Arizona is likely glad to deal with. As the defensive No. 14 that often plays second fiddle to the offensive No. 14, Wilborn is one of the crucial cogs to a defense that is on the way up and loaded with young talent across positions.
“He’s a guy that understands it better,” Arizona defensive coordinator Marcel Yates said. “Where last year he was trying to understand the defense, now he’s focusing on what the offense is trying to do to attack us.”
Known for his excellent motor and relentlessness leading to game-changing plays in the backfield, Wilborn’s freshman year consisted of many things common to a freshman season, including mistakes and lessons learned.
“Last year it was more of just, I know I have this assignment on this play, go out and do it. This year I’m understanding why,” Wilborn said. “It helps me a lot, especially when the offense does something we’re maybe not prepared for.”
Although sometimes overlooked by the linebacking duo of Colin Schooler and Tony Fields II, Wilborn is in position to build on his productive opening season.
With offenses having to plan around the two freshman All-Americans, Wilborn will have the opportunity to be the second number 14 on the team to take off around the edge and make a huge play.
With a full off-season with the defensive coordinator that recruited him under his belt, Wilborn is on his way to being a stalwart on defense.
The flashes of brilliance and dominance early in his career hopefully hint at further improvement.
If Wilborn can make the jump his coaches suggest he’s capable of, Pac-12 teams will have to game-plan for a whole other No. 14.
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