UA football: This 'tweener' perfect fit for UA

2012-03-16T00:00:00Z 2014-09-15T10:26:43Z UA football: This 'tweener' perfect fit for UARyan Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
March 16, 2012 12:00 am  • 

Tra'Mayne Bondurant is, in football terms, the ultimate "tweener" - too small to play linebacker but too physical to waste at a finesse position like cornerback.

Luckily, the Arizona Wildcats' new 3-3-5 "odd stack" defense fits Bondurant's all-too-average size like an old shoe.

His position: the aptly named "Spur."

"It's a playmaker position," he said. "I'm up for that."

No player on the Wildcats roster stands to benefit more from the 3-3-5 "odd stack" defense. The 5-foot-10-inch, 208-pound Bondurant started six games as a true freshman in 2011, serving as one of the few bright spots on a unit that finished among the worst in the country.

Bondurant, 19, figures to see even more playing time, and make more plays, once he learns the new scheme.

Here's everything you need to know about Bondurant, the 3-3-5 and why they're a good fit:

• Bondurant's bio: The Fairfield, Calif., native was a breakout star in the second half of the season, registering 45 tackles while playing both linebacker and safety. Bondurant intercepted one pass and broke up six in his six starts; he even scored a touchdown against Colorado. Bondurant received the UA coaches' newcomer of the year award; he was a favorite of Tim Kish, the Wildcats' defensive coordinator-turned-interim head coach.

In reality, Bondurant probably shouldn't have played at all. He was all set for a redshirt when starting safety Adam Hall, linebacker Jake Fischer and cornerbacks/nickel backs Jonathan McKnight and Cortez Johnson went down with injuries.

Watching from the sidelines, McKnight liked what he saw.

"I watched him play a lot, I watched the whole season," he said. "Tra'Mayne's a good natural player. He's a hard player, a hard worker. He wants to be on the field."

• Origins of the 3-3-5: Defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel learned the "odd stack" defense a decade ago after visiting Wake Forest and watching the way the Demon Deacons linebackers and safeties attacked.

Wake Forest's coaches had learned the scheme from former South Carolina defensive coordinator Charlie Strong, who had learned the 3-3-5 from former Mississippi State assistant Joe Lee Dunn.

The 3-3-5, like Arizona's spread-option offense, puts an emphasis on speed and shifting. Linebackers line up behind the three defensive linemen, with safeties and defensive backs behind them. There's an added plus to running the scheme, too: Coaches no longer have to recruit prototypical defensive tackles, thought to be the rarest of all recruits.

Arizona's set will feature a nose tackle lined up over the opposing center and two pass-rushing, faster defensive ends. And, of course, Bondurant.

• The position: The "Spur," a hybrid linebacker/safety position, might well be the key to the entire defense. Typically a safety by trade, the "Spur" lines up 3 yards away from the line of scrimmage and 3 yards outside of the last man on the offensive line. Depending on the call, the "Spur" either covers the tight end, blitzes or "fills" to stop the run.

Bondurant calls the scheme "kind of more professional and full-speed."

"You get to make a lot more plays, and at full speed," he said. "I'm excited to play it."

• Getting comfortable: Bondurant entered his first spring camp more comfortable - even if he has to learn an brand-new scheme. The Wildcats' hybrid defender learned on the fly as a true freshman and was rewarded with some impressive stats. Given the extra time to bulk up and prepare, both physically and mentally, he figures to be an even bigger force this fall.

"I'll have more of a word," he said. "I'm going to do everything I can: extra film, watching it in my room, everything.

"No more nervousness. It's more of a comfortability for me now."

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