UA's defensive line 'chiseled in granite'

By Patrick Klein

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Spring practice is a time for the Arizona football coaches to start answering the questions they pondered over the winter.

Will the kicking game survive the loss of consensus All-America place kicker Steve McLaughlin? How will the offensive line function with five new starters? How do we keep Sports Illustrated as far away from campus as possible?

But one question that will not burden the minds of the Wildcat coaches this spring is what to do about the defensive line.

With all four starters chiseled in granite, and all four of them having logged substantial experience last season, the line consisting of senior Tedy Bruschi at one end, junior Joe Salave'a and senior Chuck Osborne at tackles and sophomore Jimmy Sprotte at the other end will be counted on to be dominating.

"We weren't a great defense last year," Arizona head coach Dick Tomey said. "I would hope that with our defensive front, we can be this year. I don't think we've had three guys like Tedy, Joe and Chuck play with that kind of intensity that they play with."

Bruschi's on-field exploits are very well documented. The consensus All-American and Lombardi Trophy finalist faced double-teams most of last season while still recording 10 sacks.

The two tackles were both pleasant surprises for the UA last season. Salave'a took the starting job from regular Jim Hoffman at mid-season and flourished, claiming three sacks of his own, while Osborne filled Rob Waldrop's position and dominated, leading the team in sacks with 11.

While those three combined for 35 tackles for losses and 24 sacks last season, the unknown quantity, at least to Arizona fans, is Sprotte. But Tomey has nothing but praise for the 6-foot-2, 250-pounder.

"What Sprotte did last year was amazing," Tomey said of his lineman's 14 tackle, one-and-a-half tackles for a loss season, with only one start. "He never had a spring practice. His position is one that on our defense, does not make a lot of sacks, but is real important. He got a lot better as the year went on."

The luxury for the Wildcats will be that they can now spend quality time searching for backups on the line. The positions up for grabs are the third-string tackle and end.

In the past, these spots have been starting grounds for a number of key Wildcats. Osborne was a third-string tackle two years ago while Salave'a held that position briefly last season. Two years ago, the third-string end was Bruschi, while last year that honor fell to Sprotte.

"We have really been fortunate to get that kind of quality at those positions," said defensive line coach Rich Ellerson. "We are always looking at players for those spots. Some of the JC guys coming in the fall will have a shot."

Currently, junior end Chato Jackson and freshman tackle Daniel Greer are two frontrunners for the positions, Ellerson said.

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