Arizona defensive end Copeland Bryan knows a little something about sacks. In the equivalent of two games of action this season, the 6-foot-4, 240-pound senior has hit opposing quarterbacks for four of them.
And if you ask him, that number should be five.
"It was a fumble, man," Bryan said with a laugh last week of his season-opening hit of Utah quarterback Brian Johnson on Sept. 2. "I don't care - if you go back and watch it, it was a fumble. He wasn't releasing it, nothing. It just got knocked forward."
Although it didn't go down as an official sack after instant replay called the play an incompletion, that tackle set the tone for Bryan's season - even if it was delayed a month on that very snap thanks to an ankle injury.
He returned from the sidelines in a big way Oct. 1 at California, sacking Golden Bears quarterback Joe Ayoob three times and forcing a fumble with a hit on running back Marshawn Lynch.
The pressure Bryan creates fills a void that Arizona defensive coordinator Mark Stoops has said has plagued the Wildcats through their first few games.
"He gives us a pass rusher, and that's what we've really needed," he said last week. "We've missed him. Having him back, he's made some plays for us."
Without Bryan, Arizona allowed an average of 202 rushing yards per game. Against Cal, that number was 194 - not considerably lower on the stat sheet, but considering the Golden Bears came into the game averaging 261 yards on the ground per contest, his presence was significant.
"I kept telling him during the (Cal) game, 'Copeland, man, it's great having you back' because he was just rushing off the edges and getting those pressures and forced a fumble," said sophomore linebacker Dane Krogstad last week.
But of everyone on the Wildcat roster, no one is more excited about Bryan's return to action than the man himself, who said he has a goal of reaching double-digit sacks for the season, a feat last accomplished in 1999 when Joe Tafoya had 10.
"We play a lot of tough opponents, but I'm up to the challenge," he said. "I'd love to try to do as many big things as I can this year - lead the team in sacks, lead the team in tackles, just do whatever I can to help my team."
"This is the last year (I have)," he said. "I'd like to go out with a bang."
Bryan continued to impress in his second full outing of 2005 Saturday at Southern California, finishing the afternoon with nine tackles, including his fourth sack.
The takedown on USC quarterback Matt Leinart marked just the sixth time all season an opposing defender had broken through the Trojan offensive line to bring down the 2004 Heisman Trophy winner.
What has made Bryan, a player who in his three previous seasons had six total sacks, primed for an insane 2005 campaign?
He said a summer workout regimen that included boxing and mixed martial arts sessions prepared him for facing Pacific 10 Conference offensive lines, which, compared to those from other major conferences, rely on speed rather than bulk.
"It just makes you a whole lot quicker - the way you move, the way you use your hands," he said of the training. "It definitely translates onto the field."