Arizona Wildcats football practice

Former UA assistant Jahmile Addae, right, took a job as Minnesota’s defensive backs coach. He joins Rod Smith (Illinois) as ex-RichRod staffers to find a home in the Big Ten.

Toward the middle of last season, as the Wildcats dealt with a wave of injuries, Arizona’s coaches told freshman safety Jarrius Wallace to be ready.

The Marrero, Louisiana, native had planned to redshirt. Coaches weren’t so sure. Wallace was put on the team’s travel roster midway through the season, but didn’t end up playing.

That will change. Wallace is expected to play a role in the UA’s talented — and young — secondary this season.

“Jarrius has been a guy we’ve been looking to step up for some time now. His biggest thing has just been his body,” said UA safeties coach Jahmile Addae. “He’s smart ... so he’s obviously making his checks and adjustments. He’s doing really well this camp.”

His size is better: Wallace, listed at 6 feet 1 inch, weighs 180 pounds now, 25 more than last season. And the smarts? Well, Wallace is majoring in chemical engineering.

“He just has that killer instinct. That’s something I need to develop more to, as a player,” fellow safety Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles said. “He just goes and gets it and that’s really what you need to play the safety position. He just goes and goes and goes … he’s out here making plays.”

The Star talked to Wallace about training camp, his expectations for the 2017 season and what a chemical engineer does:

There’s been a lot of talk about this safety group, what’s it been like competing with this group?

A: “It’s a lot of fun. It’s very competitive and we all want to do good, we all helping each other. We competing and having fun, and we have each other’s back. We all want to become a family because the secondary is an important part of this defense.”

With so many guys competing for playing time, how much does that push you?

A: “It pushes me a lot. It pushes all of us. All of us want to play, and everybody wants to do something, so if we make one mistake, or the other guy makes a mistake, it makes them want to come back and fix it because the other guy who is behind him is working harder. It’s a lot of competition, and it’s fun.”

What was the redshirt season like for you?

A: “The redshirt season was kind of tough sitting behind but Coach (Rich Rodriguez) and Coach Addae didn’t feel like I was ready physically so I had to gain some weight. I was a little too small, wasn’t ready physically ready for the game so I sat back and learned. Now that I gained some weight, I’m getting it and I’m understanding the defense and I’m having more fun with the defense.”

What was that like for you when the coaching staff thought about removing your redshirt?

A: “That was midseason. I got put on the travel squad and starting dressing up. I was doing good in practice so I guess it was an option if I played. ... It got me excited and I figured like, with my confidence I started feeling like ‘I can do this.’ I got my confidence back and felt like I could help here. … They were just telling me to be ready to be the next man up. That was the mentality I had, if they need me I’ll be the next man up.”

What made you want to get into chemical engineering?

A: “That came up in 11th grade. I was good in math, that was my favorite subject in high school. My brother was talking about it and he told me I should go into engineering. I looked into it, and I liked chemical engineering the most. I just took Chemistry 151 and I took (calculus) and it’s tough, but it’s worth it. It’ll be worth it in the end.”