The bruise on Trevin Wade's left thigh is black and blue and about the size of a fist, a two-week-old reminder of a collision with an Oregon State wide receiver.

Officially, it's the reason the junior cornerback didn't play in the Arizona Wildcats' 24-7 win over Washington State on Saturday.

But Wade's problems go deeper.

Once thought to be the cornerstone of Arizona's revamped defense, Wade - a preseason third-team All-American by The Sporting News - has been uncharacteristically sloppy for the first half this season. Arizona defenders have broken up 31 passes this year; Wade is responsible for just two, including an 85-yard interception return for a touchdown against Iowa in Week 3.

"I haven't been playing up to expectations," Wade said. "I've been looking at film from last year and this year, and it's not the same.

"It's time to pick it up."

That is, if Wade is even given the chance.

Freshman Shaquille Richardson had two interceptions and seven tackles against Washington State, and was named Pac-10 defensive player of the week, and junior Robert Golden has broken up three passes and recovered a fumble in six starts.

Coach Mike Stoops said he will "keep all our options open for all our players" heading into the 15th-ranked Wildcats' homecoming game Saturday against Washington. Wade, Golden and Richardson have been cycling in at both cornerback spots in practice.

"Trevin looks good," Stoops said. "I feel like we've got some good young players that need to continue to improve. Overall, I like our secondary, and I like our depth there."

Wade, 21, admittedly never thought he'd be fighting to keep his starting job. The 5-foot-10-inch, 182-pound Wade was spectacular a year ago, grabbing a team-best five interceptions and breaking up nine more. He was named second-team All-Pac-10 and, with senior Devin Ross gone, was expected to anchor the UA's defensive backfield in 2010.

But Wade has struggled almost from the start of the season. He and Golden were flagged for a handful of pass-interference calls against Iowa in Week 3 and Cal a week later. The Wildcats defense imploded against Oregon State on Oct. 9, allowing 393 passing yards to first-year starter Ryan Katz. Wade played intermittently against the Beavers after getting speared in the thigh by an OSU helmet.

Wade received medical clearance to play last week against Washington State but told coaches he wasn't ready to play just before kickoff. Richardson took over and, despite some freshman struggles, played well enough to merit more playing time.

Richardson admits it's been "kind of weird" battling Wade in practice but said the competition has helped all three of the UA cornerbacks. Wade "has a lot - and I mean a lot - of talent, capability and potential," Richardson said.

Wade, meanwhile, seems invigorated by the daily battles.

He's bruised - but not broken.

"Last year, I took every day 110 percent. I went all-out until I was dog-tired," Wade said. "This year, I feel like I've been kinda lazy. It's time to get back to being tired again, get out here, run hard and get back to my old ways so I can get better.

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up next

• What: Washington at Arizona

• When: 7:15 p.m. Saturday

• TV, radio: ESPN, 1290-AM, 107.5-FM, 990-AM (Sp.)