By Craig Degel
Arizona Daily Wildcat September 3, 1996
Some might call UA cornerback Chris McAlister an impact player. More to the point, however, McAlister is a collision player.
With some punishing hits and tackles, McAlister made it a long Saturday night for Texas-El Paso receivers.
But the long Saturday night got started early for McAlister, who intercepted a pass on UTEP's first play from scrimmage.
"Coach told me that because I'm a junior college transfer, and only a sophomore, that they might try to test me," McAlister said. "They wanted to test me early and see what I had."
But the 6-foot-2 McAlister passed his test and had the first of two interceptions of the night to show for it. In the third quarter, McAlister intercepted UTEP quarterback Leonard Lilja for the second time, again on a deep sideline pass.
Not bad for a guy who just three weeks ago was an unknown entity for the Wildcats.
"Out of J.C.," McAlister said. "I didn't know where I stood."
Where he stood soon after arriving was on top of the depth chart.
His interceptions should bode well for a secondary that intercepted just six passes all of last season. But as Arizona head coach Dick Tomey was quick to point out, the Wildcats still have 10 games to play against opponents far superior in talent to UTEP.
"It doesn't prove anything," Tomey said. "But he's off to a good start."
While he is off to a good start, McAlister certainly didn't expect his first college game to go as well as it did.
"I just wanted to come out and establish myself and play a solid game," he said. "But I still don't think I've established myself."
There are a few Miner players who would beg to differ - like Cedric Johnson, who was leveled by McAlister after one of his seven receptions.
McAlister even handled kick return duties, returning one for 21 yards.
What makes the impact McAlister had on the game even more impressive is his position on the field. He is what's known as the boundary cornerback, defending the deep routes and forcing men to the outside. The Miners ran most of their plays across the midd le, but McAlister was still swarming to the ball.
"I'll have a few tackles and a few hits," he said. "But I just try to prepare myself to do the best I can on the field every week."