The Arizona Wildcats are dead last in the Pac-12 in pass defense, partly because of a dearth of talent at cornerback.
Redshirt sophomore Lorenzo Burns has been a mainstay at boundary corner, but the field corner spot has been extremely problematic for the Wildcats, who have started a true freshman (McKenzie Barnes), a walk-on (Azizi Hearn), a converted safety (Christian Young) and a player who is no longer on the team (Tim Hough) at that position.
Senior Jace Whittaker, the team’s best cover corner, was supposed to man that spot, but he has only appeared in one game this season due to a left arm injury.
There was some hope that he could return in the latter part of the season and bolster the secondary, but Coach Kevin Sumlin all but trounced that Monday.
“We’ve talked to Jace every week just about where he is strength-wise. He came back and got hurt again. We’re never going to put a guy in harm’s way. … With the strength in his arm right now, I just don’t see that happening this year,” Sumlin said.
The good news is Whittaker can still redshirt and return next year, as players are now allowed to appear in up to four games and still retain a year of eligibility.
That also means Whittaker could play against Arizona State this weekend and Arizona’s bowl game (should it make one) and still be eligible to return next season, but that appears unlikely, as Sumlin said.
“Obviously he has those games if we wanted to play him, but we just don’t feel good about putting him out there with one arm,” Sumlin said. “He’s weak on one side and that could put him in an even more difficult situation. Instead it’s ‘hey listen, let’s get you healthy and we don’t need to rush and you will have the opportunity because of your eligibility status to be back here.”’