Welcome to our new series in which we try to determine if the Arizona Wildcats’ position groups are in strong, stable, unstable, serious, or critical condition heading into fall camp. Next up are the linebackers.
- Returning Starters: Tony Fields II, Colin Schooler, Anthony Pandy, Jalen Harris
- Backups: Kylan Wilborn, Eddie Siaumau-Sanitoa, Derrion Clark
- Key Departures: Day Day Coleman
- New Additions: Jabar Triplett, Derick Mourning
Colin Schooler and Tony Fields have started since they were freshmen, with Anthony Pandy and Jalen Harris carving out a role early in their careers as well. Add in seasoned veteran pass rusher Kylan Wilborn, and there is a lot to like in this starting group.
The problem is that the position is extremely top-heavy, though for this season alone it is one of Arizona’s strongest starting units.
The linebacker situation is a future problem, which in all reality is only a year away. It has been addressed so far in the 2021 class but that leaves the current team lacking depth.
Eddie Siaumau-Sanitoa has a load of potential to be a great edge player. At 6-foot-3, 235 pounds, he has a great balance and quickness and strength. He only appeared in one game in 2019 but the goal would be for him to groom him into a rotational role to take a massive role for 2020.
Derrion Clark showed some promise, making strong contributions on special teams, earning himself Arizona Special Teams Player of the Year honors for 2019 after serving on four units.
While there are four veteran linebackers, Clark should still be able to find his way onto the field on defense, giving the middle backers a quick blow of air before they run back out. His role will be limited due to the talent above him, but he could be a breakout player for Arizona.
Unfortunately 2020 signee Jabar Triplett tore his Achilles in the spring and will likely lay low for the season and take a medical redshirt if possible.
One to watch out for is Derrick Mourning. The under recruited outside linebacker comes in with a terrific frame of 6-foot-3, 210 pounds and some big play potential. He’s a mix of a DeAndre’ Miller and Kylan Wilborn skill set—big, fast, strong and can get to the quarterback. I don’t have any expectations, but it wouldn’t be surprising if he forces himself onto the field.
This was extremely hard to decide between going aggressive with strong solely based on starters or emphasizing the lack of depth below the starting four and going with stable.
What makes it strong for me is the fact that the four starting linebackers are all probably top 10 players/talents/most valuable/irreplaceable among the entire roster regardless of position.
Schooler and Fields have played a ton of snaps in their three-year careers so far and have proved to be durable and capable of playing a majority of the snaps. The volume for Harris and Pandy is not quite as high, but they still have had no issues at consistently producing at a high level.
Wilborn has had his fair share of injuries after his freshman all-American season, but now in a 3-4 front he can take on a lesser role and stay fresh.
The depth is a huge concern. And if any linebackers go down you start to lose a lot of comfort in the second line of defense. For me, you get so much out of your top five linebackers and they have proven to be durable to go all 12, or 13 games.
Assuming there will be no injuries is not realistic, but I’ll roll the dice with top half of this group.