Before his team played a game this season, Rich Rodriguez had a simple reason for why he thought Arizona’s defense would be better in 2013.

It couldn’t get any worse.

“If you give up 500 yards a game, you have to do something,” Rodriguez said of last year’s unit, which allowed 499 yards per game. “Hopefully we’ll be more aggressive.”

They were.

This year’s UA defense won’t ever be confused with the “Desert Swarm” defense of the early 90s, but did take significant steps back to respectability. Coordinator Jeff Casteel’s group finished eighth in the Pac-12 in total defense, giving up 401.1 yards per game, and sixth in scoring defense, surrendering 24.2 points per game.

The UA played more guys and upped its sack total from 16 to 24.

“We’ve made some improvement, but we are still a work in progress,” Casteel said recently. “We’re a little better than we were last year, but we still have to continue to improve. Our effort has to improve.”

Here's a position-by-position look at the Wildcats' defense, how it fared, and who plans to return next season.