Arizona defense: still swarming the desert

By Eric Wein

Arizona Daily Wildcat

There may as well be dark monsoon clouds lingering over Arizona Stadium and lighting bolts zapping down into its confines.

There may as well be a loud cackle coming from beneath the stadium and a growing fear in opposing teams that enter.

Simply put, Arizona has created a monster and its name is Desert Swarm.

This nickname was given to the UA defense by a TV commentator back when it was shutting down offenses in 1992. What seemed witty at the time has grown into its own identity, known nationally for swarming ball carriers.

Arizona's defense has carved out a niche for itself in the chronicles of college football. Where Notre Dame has the Four Horseman, Miami its quarterbacks and USC its tailbacks, Arizona now has its defense.

The statistics are unbelievable UA was No. 1 in scoring defense (8.9 points per game) in 1992 and tops in rushing defense last year (30.1 yards per game).

Desert Swarm was catching on with football fans across the country because of its ability to smother offenses, so it was a special treat when the Swarm scored all of Arizona's points in a 16-14 win over Illinois last year.

This season's defense lost five key starters from last year. But the Wildcats are still confident about their replacements.

"I don't see anybody who can run the ball on us too much," safety Tony Bouie said. "We have guys that will step in and do a good job."

The players lost include Outland Award winner Rob Waldrop and last year's leading tackler, Brant Boyer. Tomey considers five of the returning starters to be all-conference types. There are still doubts as to whether this defense is as capable as those the Wildcats have fielded the past two years.

"That's something I'm waiting to see as much as everybody else," cornerback Claudius Wright said. "As the season continues, we'll see how we gel together. I think any time you lose a lot of players its always going to be a big factor. It's like, 'Who's next?' Somebody's going to have to step up and take their place."

Waldrop had to fight through double teams after gaining a reputation before last year. That gave more chances for Jim Hoffman and Tedy Bruschi to rack up sacks. This year, Bruschi is likely to be the target of blockers, but that doesn't bother him.

"If they double-team me, it will open up things for my teammates," Bruschi said. "It will give them more opportunities and I'm fine with that."

Hoffman and Chuck Osborne join Bruschi on the line, which should be just as strong. The defense was so adept at stopping the run it appeared like passing was the only way around it. But now, the Wildcats' secondary is one of its strong points.

Bouie and Brandon Sanders are considered by some as the best safety pair in the nation.

"They're awfully talented," secondary coach Ted Williams said. "They're very intelligent. They execute well and they're consistent. A lot of people have talent but they can't execute. But they do."

Those safeties give the Wildcats stability at their positions.

"I think he and I are a good tandem," Bouie said. "We know each other's move before we do it. We don't even have to communicate because we've been together so long."

Williams didn't think the loss of players would have any effect on the defense's performance.

"The way you play defense is more the system, the way it's constructed and the way you coach it. As long as you recruit to it, you maintain a level of consistency," Williams said. "I think it's going to be as good as it's ever been."

Read Next Article