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What condition is Arizona’s defensive line in heading into spring practice?

Wildcats looking to replace two big starters from 2018

arizona-wildcats-defensive-line-brown-harris-mason-training-camp-versatility-sumlin-yates-2019 Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

This is the second in a series of reports in which we try to determine if the Arizona Wildcats’ position groups are in strong, stable, unstable, serious or critical condition heading into spring ball, which begins Monday. Next up: defensive line.

Returning Starter: JB Brown

Backups: Finton Connolly, Justin Belknap, Jalen Cochran, My-King Johnson, Nahe Sulunga, Mykee Irving

New Additions: Myles Tapusoa, Trevon Mason, Kane Bradford

The defensive line was a big area of emphasis for Kevin Sumlin and company in the 2019 recruiting class, adding some big and mature bodies to address the lack of developed talent.

The unit will be without NFL hopefuls Dereck Boles and PJ Johnson. Boles was a solid two-year starter and Johnson was one of the most disruptive playmakers for Arizona last season. Kurtis Brown, once a promising tackle, seemed to have fallen out of favor with the new staff and has since transferred to Fresno State.

For now, defensive end is easily the deepest group on the line.

JB Brown figures to be the most stable lineman, growing into his defensive end role for the past two seasons. Once a middle linebacker prospect, the now 6-foot-3, 263 pounder finds a way to make plays and will likely retain his starting spot.

But not to be forgotten is veteran Justin Belknap, who is coming back from a broken foot that sidelined him for nearly all of last sesaon. Hopefully he has fully recovered and gets back into the groove of things this spring.

Jalen Cochran has been through quite a lot during his time at Arizona but started to break through last season after Belknap went down. Itʼs a big spring to see if he can maintain his spot on the depth chart.

And once a dominant pass rusher in high school, My-King Johnson has yet to play in two seasons at Arizona. The 6-foot-4, 227-pound end needs a big spring and summer to prove he can crack the rotation. Both stud and defensive end are crowded, so thereʼs a lot riding on the upcoming practices.

Finton Connolly will be in line to start at defensive tackle, a role that he has played extremely well in and where he’s probably been under-utilized and under-appreciated over the last few seasons. He needs a solid spring to hold off the junior college guys for his starting spot.

Trevon Mason, one of Sumlinʼs two JuCo DL signees, is a really interesting prospect, and can challenge Connolly for the starting defensive tackle spot. A big body at 6-foot-5, 280 pounds, Mason seems like like a PJ Johnson-type where you can play him anywhere on the line and heʼll produce.

Nahe Sulunga, a violent edge rusher in high school has since moved over the defensive tackle. An extremely high-motor guy who has a shot to move into a rotational role at tackle as well, providing extremely valuable depth as a redshirt freshman.

Myles Tapusoa, Sumlinʼs second JuCo signee, is a big, strong body at 6-foot-2, 326 pounds with quickness and is likely in line to start immediately at nose guard to clog up the middle. This commitment was a steal for Arizona, locking up his commitment just before Oregon offered him.

Mykee Irving redshirted his first season and brings the huge size at 6-foot-3, 337 pounds. He was moved over to offensive line for a bit last season as a guard but will be back on defense. Arizona doesnʼt have a lot of options at nose tackle so Irving is likely the main depth.

Arizona also signed Kane Bradford, a 6-foot-5, 270-pound defensive tackle, who will join the team in the summer. He’s an extremely lean and athletic prospect who has plenty of room to fill out his frame.

Condition: Unstable

This position group is on the brink of being stable. It ultimately comes down to the production of the junior college guys.

Thereʼs not a lot of proven production. The depth is thin and filled with young guys who have only redshirted.

Arizona could still be in play for a transfer as well, which would help provide tremendous depth and production.


What condition is Arizona’s defensive line in?

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