Scooby Wright swept the awards circuit in 2014, winning the Nagurski, Lombardi and Bednarik Awards, an accomplishment only Ndamukong Suh, Aaron Donald and Manti Te'o have done. He also added consensus All-American honors and Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year to his list as well.
But the defense was plagued with injuries in 2015, and we saw what happens when Scooby Wright isn’t on the field. It’s virtually impossible to find the replacement who can both reproduce statistics to accomplish half of what Scooby did, as well as have defenses gameplan around a guy.
The linebacker group is a mixed bag right now, especially if Marcel Yates sticks with a 4-2-5. The two linebackers that will be huge for Arizona are Cody Ippolito and Paul Magloire. We’ll wait for the return of Jake Matthews, who will also be a big contributor. It has also been rumored that Derrick Turituri could be out for the entirety of the 2016 season.
That fourth guy in the four-man front will likely be DeAndre' Miller, who is still a linebacker. This will likely be his breakout year and could thrive in a new scheme. We'll call his position "stud" since that's what it was called under Yates at Boise Sate.
Personnel wise, it's still like a 3-3-5 with DeAndre' Miller, but having that stud position line up just off the line will make a huge difference, utilizing the talents of some of the linebackers a little bit better.
Then we go down the list and start getting guys like RJ Morgan, Tre Tyler, John Kenny, Matthew Stagg, Marquis Ware, Jamardre Cobb, Kendal Franklin and Kahi Neves.
One name I constantly forget about is Will Barton, the graduate transfer linebacker from California. He will be eligible immediately and should provide a boost to the group. His production dipped off as he gained experience, dealing with injuries throughout his junior and senior year.
As a redshirt sophomore he racked up a team-high 80 tackles and found himself on the Pac-12 Honorable Mention squad, and entered his fourth college season as a preseason All-Pac-12 player. He didn't quite live up to the expectations, accumulating only 24 tackles after losing the starting job in fall camp. Still, he’s a body with Pac-12 experience that Arizona will need.
To finally answer the question of how Arizona replaces Scooby, I would go with a combination of Paul Magloire and DeAndre’ Miller. Paul didn’t start until week five and finished second on the team in tackles. In those eight games he started, he racked up 50 tackles, 20 more than Will Parks, the next leading tackler in that span. Magloire just has a nose for the football and is always anticipating the next move.
Like I said above about DeAndre’ Miller, I think he’ll be in constant position to make a play with a new scheme. That, and he’s just an athletic freak that will be able to come up big in space.