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Treydan Stukes' physical play has opened up playbook for Arizona defense

treydan-stukes-arizona-wildcats-jedd-fisch-johnny-nansen-duane-akina-pac-12-corner-colorado Zachary BonDurant-USA TODAY Sports

At the end of last season, defensive coordinator Johnny Nansen needed to find someone physical enough for the corner position to move to the nickel. He found his man in Treydan Stukes, who has thrived in his new role this season.

“It’s been the best thing that ever happened to us because he’s allowing us to be more flexible as far as our calls,” Nansen said. “Because not only can he play the run but I don’t think too many people are trying to challenge him in the vertical game. He’s got a high football IQ, it’s a blessing to have him on the field.”

Stukes has lined up in the slot on 65 percent of his snaps with another 20 lined up inside of the box, which has resulted in 34 tackles (20 solos, 14 assisted) and three tackles for loss.

In the Stanford win, Stukes spent the majority of his snaps inside of the box helping out on the interior of the defense and he has embraced his new role.

“It’s been fun, I even get to blitz sometimes,“ Stukes said. “That’s one of my favorite parts, I tell coach Nansen we should blitz me every play.”

The former walk-on used to not enjoy the physical part of the game and only wanted to be a cover corner, but veteran assistant Duane Akina kept telling him, you’re not here to play corner or field safety, you’re playing DB.

“I didn’t like hitting, I just wanted to be a cover-corner but, I think Coach Akina has also brought up that mentality that comes with being a complete defensive back,” Stukes said. “There is a physical aspect to the game and I’ve been trying to embrace it with open arms and try to be a physical defensive back.

Over the past two games UA’s defense has only allowed five scoring thrips on eight tries inside of the red zone, and Stukes credits that to his coaching staff.

“Our coaches are experienced, they’ve seen so much football so being able to understand the mental side of the game that they’re teaching us and executing the game plan they’re giving to us,” he said. “That’s how we’ve been able to take that step forward in the red-zone.”