clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

5 Arizona Wildcats to watch vs. USC

pac-12-defense-rankings-college-football-2019 Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Wildcats find themselves atop the Pac-12 South standings and despite the rocky start, could find themselves in the driver’s seat as they look to take advantage of a shaky USC squad.

Arizona has slowly picked up momentum after thrashing two low-level opponents, but things seem to heading into a mildly better direction than we once thought. Still, it’s going to be an uphill battle for Arizona to take down USC.

Here are five guys who are either coming off a big opening week in Pac-12 play, or just need to make some big time plays in a big time game in Tucson on Saturday.

Jalen Harris

Jalen Harris is one of those recruits where you just see the big time upside. Once a lanky 6-foot-4, 210 pounder who flirted with Notre Dame late in the recruiting cycle, he now sits at 230 pounds and has finally been able to show off his abilities.

We saw glimpses of him last season prior to his injury and he got a decent run against Southern Utah, but against Oregon State he showed what he was capable of.

He finished with five tackles (one for loss) and a sack, and generated a crazy amount of pressure in the backfield. In the advanced stats world, Pro Football Focus graded him as Arizona’s best defender and one of the best in the Pac-12.

I’ve been saying this for the past year it seems, but he’s Arizona’s best pure pass rusher. He has great speed for his size, his long strides close the gap and his wingspan allows him to get his hands involved. I could go on and on about Harris’ talents.

Arizona lined him up at stud and end, and depending on the severity of Jalen Cochran’s injury, Harris could see plenty of action on Saturday.

Colin Schooler

Colin Schooler played out of his mind last week and he’ll need to put up the same type of game against USC.

He finished with 10 tackles (four for loss), 7 solo, four tackles for loss and a sack. He leads the team in tackles with 44, 10 more than the next leading tackler Tony Fields.

There’s really not much else to say here, he’s the Scooby Wright of the defense and he has to play well on Saturday.

JB Brown

JB Brown isn’t exactly a flashy guy on the field, he’s just always in the right spot and does way more than his stats will show. While he did finish with six tackles on Saturday, he’s someone who is constantly putting himself in position to help the play. He was graded as Arizona’s third best defensive player against Oregon State.

With Justin Belknap out, Brown is the guy for the remainder of the season at defensive end. Originally brought in as a middle linebacker, he’s packed on the pounds and has brought an enormous amount of production to the defensive line.

PJ Johnson

Arizona’s second highest graded defender from Saturday came back fully healthy and made a big impact. His size alone brings a lot to the table and really helped out Brown and Dereck Boles or Finton Connolly.

USC has a true freshman quarterback and Johnson will need to help lead the push to get pressure early and often.

At 100 percent health, he is easily Arizona’s best defensive lineman right now.

J.J. Taylor

The offensive line is starting to get things rolling, getting things in place with two weak opponents and now revving things up against a strong front seven from USC.

If Khalil Tate isn’t going to be running and making plays with his legs like he did last season, then it’s up to Taylor to open up things in the passing game.

This dude ran for nearly 300 yards last week and while it’s unlikely that he repeats that production, there’s no shot Arizona wins this game if he doesn’t go for over 100 yards.

Arizona has to establish a run game early against USC to keep a balanced attack. If Arizona gets down early and has to rely on passing to get back into this game, it could be a long night. The offense runs best when the rushing game is going their way. The offensive line has started to look much better with Layth Friekh back and they’ll need all the push they can get.