Arizona football: Big-hitter Onwuasor no peanut as a safety

2012-10-05T00:00:00Z 2012-10-06T11:57:22Z Arizona football: Big-hitter Onwuasor no peanut as a safetyRyan Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
October 05, 2012 12:00 am  • 

A funny-shaped body part and a bit of alliteration got Arizona Wildcats safety Patrick Onwuasor saddled with a curious nickname at a young age.

Peanut. Short for Peanut-head.

"When they say Patrick, there are still people who say, 'Who's Patrick? Oh, Peanut. I know who Peanut is," Onwuasor said.

"I built it up when I got here. When I came here, people asked, 'What do you want to be called, Patrick or Peanut?' I said Peanut."

Onwuasor is, by any name, getting noticed. The redshirt freshman safety registered eight tackles in last weekend's loss to Oregon State. He's expected to start at the "bandit" position Saturday, when the Wildcats take on No. 18 Stanford. Starter Jared Tevis sprained his left ankle in the first quarter of last weekend's game and is questionable to play against the Cardinal.

Here's everything you need to know about Onwuasor (pronounced Oh-WAH-soh) as he prepares for Saturday's game:

Full name: Patrick Nnamdi Onwuasor

Height: 6 feet, 1 inch

Weight: 211 pounds

Age: 20

Hometown (high school): Inglewood, Calif. (Inglewood High School)

As a recruit: Onwuasor played wide receiver and defensive back in high school, and was rated a three-star recruit by the recruiting service. As a senior at Inglewood, Onwuasor caught 37 passes for 745 yards and seven touchdowns and, on defense, intercepted six passes.

Playing favorites: Onwuasor received scholarship offers from 11 programs, including Arizona State, Miami (Fla.), Nebraska and Washington. But most of the programs wanted him to play defense right away, while Onwuasor considered himself a natural wide receiver.

"That was the reason I came to Arizona; they wanted me to be a receiver," he said.

Switching spots: Onwuasor redshirted as a true freshman in 2011 and was playing offense in spring drills when starting safety Adam Hall suffered a serious knee injury. Arizona's coaches approached Onwuasor at the end of spring and asked if he'd consider a move to defense. He said yes.

"I always felt that love for hitting, so I felt like I could give defense my (best) shot," he said. "So I went full speed with that."

The best defense: Onwuasor uses his knowledge of offense to serve as a sort of double-agent on the field.

"I can read the receivers," he said. "I know what they're doing, how they're coming off the ball, if they're going to run a route or if they're going to block. I've always been an aggressive person. When it came to safety, I was like, all right."

First impression: Onwuasor delivered a punishing tackle on Saturday's opening kickoff, starting what would turn out to be a big night. He entered the game for Tevis toward the end of the first quarter and made his impact felt almost immediately. The new "bandit" tackled OSU running back Storm Woods in the open field on just his second play from scrimmage.

Onwuasor said he was "pretty comfortable" on the field.

"As the game started going on, I thought, 'This is easy,'" he said.

Right away, linebacker Marquis Flowers said, Onwuasor proved he could play.

"He can hit a guy," Flowers said. "He's definitely physical."

Learning from Tevis: Onwuasor spent Saturday night consulting with Tevis, who was wearing a protective boot on his injured foot. The two have talked all week about the best way to stop Stanford.

"I look up to him as a big brother. I'm going to lean on him a lot," Onwuasor said. "He's still teaching me the process."

The Rodriguez report

UA coach Rich Rodriguez's injury report and team captains for this week's game:

Injury report

• Out: LB Greg Nwoko (hip; season-ending); OT Lene Maiava (knee; season-ending); DL Dominique Austin (foot)

• Doubtful: None

• Questionable: OL Trace Biskin (toe); DL Reggie Gilbert (ankle); C Kyle Quinn (ankle); S Jared Tevis (ankle)

• Probable: None

Week 6 team captains

QB Matt Scott, WR Dan Buckner, DL Lamar De Rego, OG Jowyn Ward.

Up next

• Who: Arizona at No. 18 Stanford

• When: Noon, Saturday

• TV: Channel 11

• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM

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