Arizona safety Tra'Mayne Bondurant found he liked the new defensive system coach Rich Rodriguez installed, which allowed him to become a playmaker.


It's been one year and two days since cornerback Jonathan McKnight jumped to defend a pass in practice, landed awkwardly and was lost for the season.

There's another number - five - that keeps him pushing forward. The Arizona Wildcats will open their season on Saturday, five days from now, against Toledo at Arizona Stadium.

Health and stamina permitting, the redshirt sophomore will be on the field for the team's first play from scrimmage.

McKnight tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee on Aug. 25, 2011, 10 days before the Wildcats' season-opening win over Northern Arizona. He did not play in 2011, a year in which the team went 4-8 and coach Mike Stoops was fired. The cornerback participated in noncontact drills during the spring, and said he feels good following training camp. While a shoulder injury has limited his reps recently, McKnight says he's ready to return.

"I felt like it went by fast," he said. "I'm ready for the season."

Here's a look at McKnight's injury, his recovery and where he fits in:

How it happened

McKnight was running a drill that, for an experienced cornerback, seemed fairly simple: Backpedal, turn, spot the back-shoulder fade pass and leap.

When he landed, however, McKnight heard something pop. He was diagnosed with a torn ACL, an injury that typically takes between six and nine months to heal.


Tucson surgeons repaired McKnight's knee on Sept. 8, the day Arizona played - and lost to - Oklahoma State during a nationally televised game in Stillwater, Okla.

The cornerback initially struggled to accept the fact he wouldn't play until 2012, but found an unlikely mentor: his mom. Jennifer McKnight tore her ACL while playing recreational softball; Jonathan, who was still living at home at the time, remembered the time frame for her recovery.

"I had been through the process," McKnight said. "She told me to keep my head up."


McKnight returned to the weight room pain-free in early December, three months after his injury. By February, he was running again - though it took a little adjustment.

"It felt like a newborn baby," he said. "I hadn't ran in five or six months, but it felt good." He said he feels 100 percent after a long year of rehab.


The River Ridge, La., product projects as either one of the team's two starting cornerbacks or as a nickel back in the 3-3-5 "odd stack" defense.

McKnight was moved around the field in Friday's "Beanie Bowl" scrimmage, though it's unclear what - if anything - that means for his role going forward.

UA coach Rich Rodriguez said McKnight "should be good to go" for the opener.

"Our three top corners are he, Shaq (Richardson) and Derrick Rainey," Rodriguez said. "All three of them should play quite a bit."

Without McKnight, the UA posted its worst defensive season. With him healthy - and a new scheme in place - the Wildcats just might improve.

"I really don't have to prove or show anybody anything," McKnight said. "When I step on the field, I'll know its time."

Up next

• Who: Toledo at Arizona

• Where: Arizona Stadium

• When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday