While the Arizona Wildcats’ defense ranked 10th in the Pac-12 this season, the future of the unit is extremely bright thanks to a stellar freshman class.
Linebacker Kylan Wilborn leads Arizona in sacks (7.5), while linebackers Colin Schooler and Tony Fields II lead the team in tackles, and redshirt freshman cornerback Lorenzo Burns leads the team in interceptions (5).
Schooler and Fields in particular caught the eye of folks around the nation as they were named Freshman All-Americans by ESPN.com.
Here is what was said about Schooler, who was also the Pac-12 Freshman Defensive Player of the Year.
No freshman finished with more TFL than Schooler (13.5), who also finished 13th in the Pac-12 in tackles (88), picked off two passes, racked up four sacks and forced a fumble, emerging as one of the league's top all-around linebackers.
And here’s what ESPN said about Fields.
If Schooler was the rising star on Arizona's defense, Fields wasn't far behind. He led the team with 91 tackles, had four sacks and an interception. Fields and Schooler's 179 tackles were tops among freshman teammates in the nation.
Playing at the Pac-12 level is generally extremely difficult for true freshmen because of the difference in speed and size from the high school game, but the Wildcats had a plethora of them who were not only ready to play at the collegiate level, but succeed.
Arizona finished 7-5 in the regular season, which may or may not be a successful season depending who you ask, but there is no denying that Arizona’s defense is set up for bigger and better things in the future because of its freshman class.
And if Khalil Tate and the offense replicate the success they had this season, it’s easy to see how Arizona can establish itself as one of the top teams in the conference the next few seasons.
The UA program seemed to lack direction after things continually went downhill after the 2014 Fiesta Bowl season, but that is no longer the case.
Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire