Hectic spring for Arizona's Casteel

June, 21, 2012
6/21/12
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Arizona misses Washington State and Cal on the 2012 schedule, which means the Wildcats dodge top-tier wide receivers Marquess Wilson and Keenan Allen. Still, new Arizona defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel isn't exactly breathing a sigh of relief. He still has to prep for USC's Marqise Lee and Robert Woods and Oregon State's Markus Wheaton.

"Wide receivers are everywhere," said Casteel, who joins Rich Rodriguez's staff from West Virginia. "That's a problem. I'm having trouble sleeping in the desert thinking about all of the guys we're going to have to face this fall.

"There is so much talent in the conference and they are all well-coached. You go from Oregon running up-tempo to Stanford grinding it out. You really see the full gambit."

It's been a hectic spring for Casteel trying to get his new team up to speed on his 3-3-5 defense. Things got a little tougher when 1) defensive back Adam Hall was lost for the year with a knee injury in the spring -- his second ACL tear in as many years -- and 2) last week linebacker Brian Wagner, a transfer from Akron and projected starter, decided to give up football, leaving the Wildcats especially thin at linebacker.

"That definitely put a dent in us," Casteel said of Wagner's departure. "Brian was a good kid and it just didn't work out for him. His situation was he came from Akron and that's a long way from home. It's tough to see him go."

That leaves Casteel re-arranging the deck. It could mean one of Arizona's big-bodied safeties -- makes a move to linebacker. Plus most 3-3-5s usually have a hybrid linebacker-safety. That could be the 6-foot-3, 221-pound Marquis Flowers. Or he could move C.J. Dozier or Rob Hankins or Hank Hobson.

"We're looking at a lot of different options," said Casteel, who also coaches the linebackers. "There are some safeties that could play in the box. We're talking about moving some kids around and we'll have some new guys coming in and there is some talent there and they'll get a chance to prove themselves also."

In the meantime, he said he'll lean heavily on middle linebacker Jake Fischer -- who is coming off of a knee injury that kept him on the sidelines all of last year.

"He's a leader and he's our bell cow going into the season."

Despite the holes, Casteel is happy to report the transition to the new scheme is going fairly well. He admits it's going to take some time for them to get comfortable, but there are some universal truths he's hoping his players can fall back on regardless of the scheme.

"Football is football," he said. "A little more gets made (of the 3-3-5) than there really is. It's not much different. It's an odd front, but it's still about getting off blocks and staying square and using your hands and getting people on the ground. Those are the things you focus on. If you are a good fundamentals team, you'll have a chance for success.

"We've only had 15 practices with them and they are still learning and we're all feeling our way around. But they had a good spring. They got better from the first day to the last day, which is good. I'm anxious to get with them and see how much they've retained. Hopefully they'll make some strides in the first couple of weeks in practice."

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