Arizona football: 4 suspensions put secondary in crisis mode

2011-10-25T00:02:00Z Arizona football: 4 suspensions put secondary in crisis modeRyan Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
October 25, 2011 12:02 am  • 

Cortez Johnson has been on campus just three months, has yet to start a college football game and - until Monday - had missed the previous month with post-concussion syndrome.

Now, the true freshman from New Orleans is the Arizona Wildcats' last hope. Actually, he might be their only one.

Johnson is expected to start Saturday, when the UA travels to Seattle to take on Washington. He was forced into action because of suspensions to four members of the UA's secondary.

Two defensive starters, cornerback Shaquille Richardson and nickel back Jourdon Grandon, won't play against the Huskies because of their roles in a midfield brawl during the Wildcats' 48-12 win over UCLA on Thursday. Another corner, Lyle Brown, and safety Mark Watley have been suspended for the first half.

Interim coach Tim Kish called the fight - six UCLA players, including standout receiver Taylor Embree also were suspended - a "selfish reaction to 18, 19 and 20-year-olds' emotions."

"They get carried away sometimes," Kish said Monday. "We do, too, as adults."

The 6-foot-2-inch, 190-pound Johnson is expected to start for Richardson, though Derrick Rainey could be used if the Wildcats decide to play three linebackers instead of a nickel back. Both must stay healthy. Kish said Monday that he will move a few offensive skill players - he declined to say who - to defense for the week, in case the Wildcats are strapped for personnel in the first half. Brown could replace Johnson in the second half, or Watley could play safety with Robert Golden moving to cornerback.

The fight and ensuing suspensions left a black mark on the UA's most impressive game of the season. Quarterback Nick Foles said the Wildcats learned their lesson.

"Guys will learn that you can't be selfish if you want to be successful," he said. "Those guys are good guys. They just made a mistake. Everybody makes mistakes. This is going to be a learning experience for them, and we'll move forward. We'll have some younger guys step up."

Big day for Bondurant

The UA unveiled a defensive wrinkle last week, and found a surprise star: Tra'Mayne Bondurant.

Making his first career start, the true freshman defensive back registered a team-high eight tackles, including one tackle-for-loss. He was active on special teams and in the UA's double-eagle flex front; as the team's "rover," a hybrid safety/linebacker, he tracked the opposing running back.

Kish said Bondurant plays with "some fire, some instincts" and a lot of nastiness. The 5-foot-11-inch, 185-pound Fairfield, Calif., native registered just three tackles in the Cats' first six games before breaking out against UCLA.

"He did a heck of a job for just a week's worth of practicing and understanding what was expected of him at that position," Kish said. "We probably hid him away for too long."

Bonano gets award

John Bonano said Thursday's 8-for-8 kicking performance against UCLA was "the best feeling in the world."

Monday might have been better.

The Wildcats' senior place-kicker was named the Pac-12's special teams player of the week, the first-ever award for Bonano, who started the season as a kickoff specialist.

Oregon State's Sean Mannion was named the Pac-12's offensive player of the week, while Beavers teammate Scott Crichton received defensive honors.

Bonano, a senior from Salinas, Calif., hit all six of his PATs and nailed field goals from 22 and 41 yards in the Wildcats' nationally televised win over the Bruins. The game marked Bonano's first start after spending the first six games behind Jaime Salazar and Alex Zendejas on the depth chart.

Bonano said the postgame celebration was special.

"My parents came down; my mom was crying," he said. "It was pretty cool."

Up next

• What: Arizona at Washington

• When: 7:30 p.m., Saturday

• TV: FSAZ

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