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Analyzing Arizona’s defense vs. Oregon via Pro Football Focus

arizona-wildcats-football-defense-oregon-analysts-pff-pac12-2021 Photo by Tom Hauck/Getty Images

After Arizona’s impressive performance against No. 3 Oregon for the first 3-plus quarters, it wasn’t able to limit mistakes that led to the deficit going from five to out-of-reach. The result was a 41-19 loss.

Let’s take a look through the Pro Football Focus lens, in conjunction with my analysis, to see how Arizona’s defense performed against the Ducks.

As a reminder, see the grading scale below:


Defensive line

The defensive line had a solid game overall. To put it into perspective, the position group posted its highest mark this season in QB pressures at seven. That’s against a very good, and highly rated, Oregon o-line.

After missing the game against NAU, Trevon Mason was back and made an impact. He had a good showing tackling the ball carrier and with his pass rush. His best play came as he batted a ball at the line of scrimmage that almost landed in J.B. Brown’s hands for a big play to end the first half.

Speaking of Brown, he had a good game. Besides the almost-pick, he was disruptive in the run game and had his best pass rushing performance of the season so far.

Kyon Barrs has continued his fantastic season. Watching him play, it is very clear that he has taken a major step forward in his development. He is aggressive and is by far UA’s best tackling defensive lineman. He posted his fourth straight game with a TFL and was an absolute problem in pass rushing situations for the Ducks. He had the most pressures with three.

Mo Diallo came in at the start of the second half, after missing the first half due to an extremely questionable targeting call against NAU, and immediately made a play. On his third snap on the field, with Oregon in the shadow of their own goal post, Diallo blew threw the line and sacked Anthony Brown for Arizona’s second safety of the season. Pretty impressive for just getting into the game.

The best lineman of the night was Jalen Harris. He has really played well this season. The stats might not show it, and there have been a couple of tackling issues, but overall he has done well. He showed impressive athleticism when he picked up the back out of the field in coverage and stayed with him the entire way, forcing an incompletion. He also showed excellent vision and sideline-to-sideline speed keeping edge plays to no or minimal gains.

Paris Shand came in and played a couple of snaps.

STAT LINES

  • Jalen Harris: 3 tackles, 1 QB Pressure (1 Hurry)
  • Mo Diallo: 3 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 sack, 1 QB Pressure (1 Sack)
  • J.B. Brown: 2 tackles, 1 QB Pressure (1 Hurry)
  • Trevon Mason: 2 tackles, 1 PBU, 1 QB Pressure (1 Hit)
  • Kyon Barrs: 2 tackles, 0.5 TFL, 3 QB Pressures (2 Hurries, 1 Hit)
  • Paris Shand: N/A

SNAP COUNTS

  • Trevon Mason: 50
  • Kyon Barrs: 47
  • Jalen Harris: 44
  • J.B. Brown: 42
  • Mo Diallo: 9
  • Paris Shand: 2

OVERALL

  • Highest: Jalen Harris (68.7)
  • Lowest: Paris Shand (60.1)

TACKLING

  • Highest: Jalen Harris (76.4)
  • Lowest: Mo Diallo (32.1)

PASS RUSH

  • Highest: Trevon Mason (67.9)
  • Lowest: J.B. Brown (58.6)

RUN DEFENSE

  • Highest: J.B. Brown (62.1)
  • Lowest: Kyon Barrs (54.8)

COVERAGE

  • Highest: Jalen Harris (63.0)
  • Lowest: N/A

Linebackers

The backers have been playing very well so far this season. The Oregon game was no exception. However, I do want to start with a negative.

Anthony Pandy, who has had a very good season, did not have a great game according to PFF. Now, I don’t necessarily agree with PFF’s ratings. I believe he had a solid game but it definitely wasn’t his best. He did miss a tackle, however, it was only his second of the season. Plus it was nice to see him disrupting the QB on pass rushing situations. I also believe he he did a great job of his angles of attack and tackling overall.

Moving on, we have Treshaun Hayward, who is turning out to be a tackling machine. He was a very solid tackler against Oregon, posting his best rating of the season. He was all over the field, making plays and keeping the momentum up on defense most of the game. He didn’t do that well in coverage, though that’s not as surprising as it isn’t a strong suit of his. I would be really interested to see how he’d do with another year in Don Brown’s scheme.

Kenny Hebert has improved every single week. He was aggressive, fast, and showed great instincts throughout the game. His overall rating is down but I believe that is based on the offsides penalties he had. Regardless, I don’t agree with that rating. It is worthy to note that his pass rushing expertise is starting to shine through, earning his first sack of the season.

Speaking of playing well, Christian Young has truly found his home as a VIPER. He is easily Arizona’s best tackling player and has played his best ball as a Wildcat. He just looks the most comfortable I’ve ever seen him. He made one mistake against Oregon, letting the TE get behind him for a touchdown. That was probably his worst play of the season. Don Brown thinks that was his biggest mistake of the season as well. Even so, he has really come a long way from when he got to Tucson.

Rashie Hodge Jr. played his best game since BYU. He did a great job tackling and did a good job playing against the run. I expect him to get better as he gets more comfortable in the scheme and continue his development. Jerry Roberts played a little as well. He didn’t record any stats, however, I can see him getting more and more time on the field the more he gets comfortable.

STAT LINES

  • Treshaun Hayward: 8 tackles
  • Christian Young: 6 tackles, 2 PBU
  • Kenny Hebert: 4 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 1 sack, 3 QB Pressures (2 Hurries, 1 Sack)
  • Anthony Pandy: 4 tackles, 1 QB Pressure (1 Hurry)
  • Rashie Hodge Jr.: 2 tackles
  • Jerry Roberts: N/A

SNAP COUNTS

  • Christian Young: 51
  • Anthony Pandy: 49
  • Treshaun Hayward: 42
  • Kenny Hebert: 34
  • Rashie Hodge Jr.: 12
  • Jerry Roberts: 4

OVERALL

  • Highest: Rashie Hodge Jr. (71.0)
  • Lowest: Jerry Roberts (47.2)

TACKLING

  • Highest: Treshaun Hayward & Christian Young (82.9)
  • Lowest: Anthony Pandy (55.5)

PASS RUSH

  • Highest: Kenny Hebert (67.3)
  • Lowest: Anthony Pandy (55.4)

RUN DEFENSE

  • Highest: Treshaun Hayward (72.3)
  • Lowest: Anthony Pandy (52.4)

COVERAGE

  • Highest: Christian Young (68.6)
  • Lowest: Treshaun Hayward (41.4)

Cornerbacks

It would be misleading to say the CBs are just okay. They are more than that, they are very good. In fact, you don’t hear too much about the corners during any game really. There is a reason for that. The group this year hasn’t really allowed many catches nor have they allowed many big plays or scores. In fact, they aren’t having too many passes thrown their way overall this season.

Example: Christian Roland-Wallace allowed only seven yards on one catch out of three targets. His coverage rating in the table below is garbage. I’m not sure what PFF saw but I do not agree with it in the slightest. In fact, opposing QBs are only completing 50% of their passes against him this season.

Isaiah Rutherford is just as good. He had one target against Oregon and it was an incomplete pass. Opposing QBs are only completing 33.3% of their passes against him. That’s, um, very good.

Treydan Stukes is the shakiest of the corners but he is very young. He allowed three receptions on three targets for 54 yards. However, he didn’t allow a touchdown and hasn’t allowed one all year. Stukes will get better and better the more he plays.

STAT LINES

  • Christian Roland-Wallace: 2 tackles, 1 rec/3 tgts, 7 yds, 0 TD
  • Treydan Stukes: 2 tackles, 3 rec/3 tgts, 54 yds, 0 TD
  • Isaiah Rutherford: 0 rec/1 tgt, 0 yds

SNAP COUNTS

  • Christian Roland-Wallace: 57
  • Isaiah Rutherford: 57
  • Treydan Stukes: 16

OVERALL

  • Highest: Isaiah Rutherford (71.1)
  • Lowest: Treydan Stukes (44.9)

TACKLING

  • Highest: Treydan Stukes (79.0)
  • Lowest: Christian Roland-Wallace (74.8)

PASS RUSH

  • N/A

RUN DEFENSE

  • Highest: Isaiah Rutherford (64.3)
  • Lowest: Treydan Stukes (60.0)

COVERAGE

  • Highest: Isaiah Rutherford (70.9)
  • Lowest: Treydan Stukes (44.8)

Safeties

This was not a good game for the group. It definitely seemed that the Ducks were picking on the group and I believe they were. After poor tackling technique in the middle of the field allowed Oregon a quick touchdown to start the game, they found the weak spot in the defense.

Gunner Maldonado had a very inconsistent game. His coverage was on and off. He didn’t use the best technique to take down ball carriers, though at times he did. I think he is a great option in the defensive backfield, however, there are things to clean up. He is still young and still has his best football ahead of him.

Jaydin Young did not have a good game at all. He didn’t tackle well nor did he cover well, though he did have two pass breakups. There were times you could see his frustration with his own performance. I’m not concerned about him however. He is very talented and has a high ceiling. Like Maldonado, the best football is still ahead for the young man.

Jaxen Turner, who sat out the first half due to actual targeting against NAU, came in and did a solid job. His coverage skills have been the best that I’ve seen from him since he came to Tucson, minus the SDSU game. Even if he allows a catch, he has done a very good job of limiting the yards gained by the receiver. One aspect he’ll need to continue to work on is his tackling. Hopefully, he will get that shored up as UA moves further into conference play.

STAT LINES

  • Gunner Maldonado: 6 tackles, 1 rec/2 tgts, 9 yds, 1 TD
  • Jaydin Young: 3 tackles, 2 PBUs, 0 rec/4 tgts, 0 yds
  • Jaxen Turner: 1 tackle, 1 PBU, 0 rec/1 tgt, 0 yds

SNAP COUNTS

  • Gunner Maldonado: 54
  • Jaydin Young: 37
  • Jaxen Turner: 20

OVERALL

  • Highest: Jaxen Turner (71.2)
  • Lowest: Jaydin Young (47.0)

TACKLING

  • Highest: Gunner Maldonado (60.4)
  • Lowest: Jaxen Turner (27.9)

PASS RUSH

  • N/A

RUN DEFENSE

  • Highest: Gunner Maldonado (69.5)
  • Lowest: Jaxen Turner (48.6)

COVERAGE

  • Highest: Jaxen Turner (81.5)
  • Lowest: Jaydin Young (43.5)