And while the unit has had its fair share of ups and downs, one player has been impossible to overlook.
That’s true freshman linebacker/defensive end Kylan Wilborn.
The Northridge, Calif. native had four sacks and forced a fumble in the 47-30 win against UCLA, becoming the first Wildcat to have four sacks in a game since Joe Salave’a in 1997.
“A couple of them were him just chasing down the quarterback late, and good effort,” head coach Rich Rodriguez said. “A couple of nice calls, some twist game that Kylan really timed it up well.”
Wilborn wasn’t highly-touted arriving at Arizona, to say the least. He was the No. 1,344 recruit in 247Sports’ composite rankings, and his only other FBS offers were from Hawaii and Idaho.
But the 6-foot-2, 245-pound edge defender impressed during fall camp, and was able to start for Arizona immediately at the stud position after redshirt senior DeAndre’ Miller broke his foot in the offseason.
Wilborn has 19 tackles, including a team-high seven tackles for loss and five sacks, and three forced fumbles through six games.
“He’s a physical guy for a true freshman, with a couple years in the weight room he’s going to be an outstanding player,” Rodriguez said. “He’s played pretty consistently, and for a true freshman that’s a hard position physically to get thrown into at defensive end, going up against some really big guys.”
But Wilborn has handled it well, and certainly better than Rodriguez could have ever expected.
“We signed him as a guy who can help us as a pass rusher,” Rodriguez said, “and we didn’t know it would be this much this soon.”
Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire