The Arizona Wildcats’ defense has been a pleasant surprise the last two weeks, allowing just 16 points in each of the last two games.
But one area it has struggled is generating a consistent pass rush, tallying just four sacks through three games.
The good news is Arizona could be adding DeAndre’ Miller back on the edge. The redshirt senior missed the first three games after undergoing foot surgery in the offseason.
“He was our best pass rusher, most experienced linebacker, probably one of our top defensive guys, so we’ve missed him for a few weeks,” head coach Rich Rodriguez said Monday.
Rodriguez said he doesn’t know if Miller will be available this Friday vs. Utah, but he hopes Miller can return to practice this week.
“He’s worked really hard, he’s in great shape, he just hasn’t practiced,” Rodriguez said.
Miller has five career sacks, including three in nine games last year.
True freshman Kylan Wilborn has started in Miller’s place. He has one sack, three tackles for loss, and a forced fumble so far.
Running back Nick Wilson returned to the lineup against UTEP after missing the Houston game a couple weeks ago.
Wilson racked up just 39 yards on 13 carries, and some people thought Wilson should rest to be ready for the Utah game instead, but Rodriguez didn’t agree.
“Every player needs to be play,” he said. “I think you’re better when you play. Nick needed to play. He probably could have played a little the week before, but just wasn’t healthy. He couldn’t make the cuts, and that’s a tough position if you have something banged up to play at.
“It was good to get him some reps. I think he’ll be better this week with another week of full practice. We’ll play the same three or four guys, and it was good to see Branden Leon and Nathan Tilford get some experience, too, because we’re going to need him as the season goes along.”
Rodriguez said he also plans to work freshman wide receiver/running back Gary Brightwell into the mix eventually as well.
“As the season goes along we’ll play more and more of them,” Rodriguez said.
The Wildcats used three quarterbacks against UTEP last Friday, none of whom were Khalil Tate, the team’s usual backup.
Tate appeared to be limited in pre-game warmups and he injured his shoulder in the season-opener against NAU (the two are possibly related), but Rodriguez said Tate could have played vs. UTEP and will be good to go this week against Utah.
Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire