Monday, June 9, 2014
Most important player: Arizona
By Ted Miller
All players are equal, but some players are more equal than others. That's the basis of our Most Important Player series.
First off, quarterbacks are excluded to make things more interesting. It goes without saying, for example, that Marcus Mariota is Oregon's most important player.
And most important doesn't necessarily have to be "best." An All-American's backup can be pretty darn good, too. USC's Leonard Williams might be the best defensive lineman in the nation, but is he the Trojans' most important player considering their talent and depth on the D-line?
Our most important guys are players who could swing a win total one way or the other, based on their living up to expectations. Or their absence.
2013 production: 83 tackles, 9.5 tackles for a loss, 0.5 sacks, 1 interception
Linebacker Scooby Wright was a big contributor to Arizona's defense last season.
Why Wright is so important: Last September while watching Arizona play at UNLV, Wildcats receivers Austin Hill and David Richards started talking about Wright, then a true freshman, and the conversation ended with Hill asserting -- and Richards nodding in agreement -- that "Scooby is a baller."
That sums it up. Wright arrived at Arizona last year as an unheralded recruit, but his motor quickly caught the attention of coaches. He became a starter, an honorable mention All-Pac-12 performer and a freshman All-American for the Pac-12's most improved defense in 2013.
So what does he do for an encore? He only needs to become the fiery leader of a unit that still lacks A-list, headed-to-the-NFL talent.
The Wildcats defense grew from massive liability in 2012 to solid last season. The question is, can it take the next step? Only six starters return, with unit leader Jake Fischer among the departed. The Wildcats are questionable on the defensive front, particularly with the pass rush, and at cornerback. That's not a good combination.
Wright needs to become both a playmaker and a glue guy. He needs to know the scheme and alignments, and he needs to set the tone. There's reason to believe a guy who calls himself @TwoStarScoob on Twitter, referencing his low ranking among recruiting services, can step into that centerpiece role.
Recall what might have been the biggest play of the Wildcats' 2013 season. It was Wright who intercepted a Mariota pass that deflected off the hands of CB Shaq Richardson as he dove out of bounds. It was the first play of the Oregon-Arizona game and Mariota's first interception of the season. The Wildcats would go on to roll to a shocking 42-16 upset.
Wright has a big-time motor and a knack for being in the right place at the right time. That figures to be critical for the Arizona defense this fall.