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Arizona football training camp: Secondary competition heats up as preseason enters second half

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The addition of veteran transfers has given Arizona football’s defense a new attitude and competition in training camp.

“A couple of transfers come from very winning programs, and they know what it looks like,” defensive back Treydan Stukes said. “They know what it takes, bringing that here, letting us know. Obviously we’re going to do it our own way but we know what it takes to be a great team and they’re bringing that culture here with them. They’re bringing a sense of leadership.”

One of the new veterans is senior defensive back Martell Irby. Irby last played at UCLA before stepping away from the game in 2022 and joined the UA football team as a walk-on.

“His leadership is through the roof, his maturity through the roof, his passion talks about embracing, ‘hey, I want to be a great special teams player. I’m gonna embrace it. Hey, I want to impact the game anyway, I can embrace it….’” head coach Jedd Fisch said. “He’s been through some things, he thought football was over for him and came back as a walk-on paying for it himself just to be able to be a part of it. And then if you don’t feel that energy and passion, I don’t know what you could feel as a team.”

That energy and passion is causing the defensive back group to be pushed, and the competition at camp is heating up for who will be the day one starter.

“We’ve got a good amount of players that could play,” Stukes said, “There’s high competition in the room. And it’s only going to make us better at the end of the day. But I think you know, there’s no egos, people are just trying to do better and perfect their own craft.”

The safety competition is the one to watch right now with multiple players making plays. Fisch is still trying to figure out how they should play this safety group in games.

“Do we need to play more than two guys? Do we need to rotate them in? Do we keep them fresher that way,” Fisch said. “Because right now none of them have really separated themselves to become the one, the top guy and no one’s separated themselves and dropped off the list so no one’s bottomed out and no one’s hit that ceiling yet. So good thing we got three more weeks of camp because right now, I don’t know who would start.”