Arizona football


Cornerback Jonathan McKnight had made the play probably 1,000 times in practice.

Backpedal, turn, spot the back-shoulder fade pass, leap, and break it up.

McKnight still can't explain why the 1,001st time was different.

"I went back, and I heard a pop in my knee," he said. "I didn't know right away because it wasn't really hurting. But then they told me."

McKnight's 2011 season ended Aug. 26, 10 days before the Arizona Wildcats' season opener against Northern Arizona.

Six and a half months and one surgery later, McKnight is finally back.

Well, almost. McKnight will be limited to noncontact drills this spring as he tries to complete his comeback from an all-too-common, but no less grisly, injury. The Wildcats are off this week because of spring break.

McKnight tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee that afternoon in August, and underwent surgery a few weeks later. If everything goes as planned, McKnight should be back on the field - and in the starting lineup - when Arizona opens its 2012 season this fall.

McKnight admits the first couple months were "hard for me," especially after coach Mike Stoops - who had recruited him out of John Curtis High School in River Ridge, La. - was fired. The Wildcats finished the season 4-8.

But the cornerback found an unlikely partner while recovering: his mother. Jennifer McKnight underwent a similar surgery after tearing her ACL playing softball.

"We're an athletic family," he said.

Steady rehab, coupled with some help from home, has helped change McKnight's outlook. He's no longer frustrated or angry; instead, he's practically giddy to get back on the field.

"It set me back one step," McKnight aid. "When I come back, I'm going to come back stronger than I used to be."

Hall healthier, happy

Sometime in the next six months, Adam Hall will petition the NCAA for an extra year of eligibility. And, given his injury history, he'll probably receive it.

For now, however, Hall considers himself a member of Arizona's soon-to-be-senior class. He is participating in seniors-only meetings and is taking a leadership role on the team. At age 22 - he'll turn 23 in September - Hall is also among the oldest players on the roster.

"I say I'm a senior," he said. "I possibly have one year of eligibility left, but we'll see what happens."

The Wildcats need him. Hall enjoyed a breakout season in 2010, starting seven games, registering 54 tackles and intercepting two passes. But Hall tore knee ligaments during spring drills a year ago, and appeared in just one game last fall before injuring the knee again. A foot ailment kept Hall hobbled earlier this spring, but the Palo Verde High School graduate said he's now close to full-strength.

"It's been a while since I've played some football," Hall said. "My body's catching up, and feeling back to where it needs to be."

Numbers game

Safety Tra'Mayne Bondurant will wear No. 21 this season as a tribute to a recently deceased cousin. The Wildcats' safety formerly wore No. 27.

"I've dedicated my season to him," he said.

Bondurant is one of a half-dozen Wildcats regulars who are wearing new numbers. Wide receiver Dan Buckner switched to No. 4, quarterback Richard Morrison is wearing No. 8, cornerback Cortez Johnson has switched to No. 4, safety Mark Watley is wearing No. 7 and linebacker Dame Ndiaye is No. 52.

Two players may have the same numbers provided one plays offense and the other plays defense.

Ndiaye and Morrison are both playing new positions, too.

Pro day coming

Nick Foles, Juron Criner, Trevin Wade, Robert Golden and more than a half-dozen other Wildcats will be weighed, timed and drilled by NFL scouts Monday as part of the program's annual Pro Day on campus. The annual event serves as a scouting showcase for players who were not invited to last month's NFL Combine. Those who were, like Foles, Criner and Wade, will have another chance to prove themselves.