KELLY: Could a little isolation help the pass rush - Tucson News Now

KELLY: Could a little isolation help the pass rush

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Is it time to put the cornerbacks on "The Island"?

We've chronicled the Wildcats aversion to sacking the quarterback the last two seasons.

Just 26 total, last in the Pac-12 in both 2011 and 2012.

The cupboard has been bear since the Sack Brothers Brooks Reed and Rickey Elmore left town.

Last year was understandable in a new defensive system under Rich Rodriguez and Jeff Casteel and with a linebacking core that Rodriguez has called the thinnest he's ever had in his coaching career.

But with better numbers overall on the defensive side of the ball meaning added depth, and virtually all 11 core starters returning, Casteel might be ready to dial up the pressure.

Rodriguez indicated at Pac-12 Media Day in Los Angeles that the Cats might do some things differently on defense to try and get more pressure on the quarterback this season.

Although neither he or nor Casteel have tipped their hand. One of the things that could assist in putting the quarterback under duress is more man-to-man pass coverage.

Senior Shaquille Richardson, junior Jonathan McKnight and senior Derrick Rainey figure to lead again on the outside for UA.

Richardson has started 24 games and has a larger reputation as a physical corner although last season he proved to be one of the better defenders in the country in terms of breaking up passes.

McKnight says he's fully healthy this season after missing the entire 2011 campaign due to a knee injury. He started nine games last season and had a key interception return for a touchdown in the Wildcats home upset win over Oklahoma State.

The Cats have a pair of youngsters who could figure into the mix in Devon Holiday and Derek Babiash.

If you're a cornerback in football, there's nothing better than being on The Island, just you and that receiver on the other side of the line, battling one-on-one to as McKnight says, "get on top".

The opportunity for each to prove he can be a shutdown corner in press coverage would allow Casteel the chance to utilize his linebackers and safeties more in the run games and less in coverage.

If man-to-man is in their future, both Richardson and McKnight sound like they have the confidence to take it on.

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