Originally posted on Fox Sports Arizona  |  Last updated 8/22/12
TUCSON This is the state of Arizonas defense: Senior running back Taimi Tutogi may be the teams best hope on the defensive line. Who knows - maybe on the defense period? Its that kind of reality for first-year Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez, who announced Tuesday night that potential starting defensive lineman Justin Washington had been suspended for team violations. Washington or no Washington, Rodriguez has had to adjust on the fly the last two to three weeks as he continues to tweak his defense. He has his offense to thank, as hes borrowed or moved three key players. Freshman Keoni Bush-Loo has been moved from tight end to defensive end. Senior running back Greg Nwoko is seeing time at linebacker. And Tutogi will play equal parts offense and defense. Better to hit than be hit, Tutogi said, smiling. Just last week, Rodriguez said Tutogi might be the teams best pass rusher. Lets also not forget that last year, the Wildcats had a total of six sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss. For many teams thats two games worth. No need to explain the changes. Its out of necessity, Rodriguez said. In the future we wont be at this (level) again. As far as defensively, itll take recruiting to fix that. Until then, its get in where you fit in for some Wildcats. Weve got a lot of unselfish guys, Rodriguez said. Thats the good part of it. Its not clear how much Nwoko will play. Hes been hurt most of the recent practices with a hip injury. Bush-Loos athletic ability will help, but he's young with much to learn. As for Tutogi, it looks as if he could play as many as 60 plays, split evenly between offense and defense. Hes going to have to be in shape, Rodriguez quipped. He is. And hes ready for whatever is needed. Or so he says. Im definitely open to it, he said. In fact, he feels like hes back home at the defensive end position. It was the position he was recruited at by Mike Stoops' staff. But because he had so much talent in front of him Brooks Reed, Ricky Elmore and DAundre Reed he was moved. In the (last) scrimmage it was overwhelming the plays I got with the defense, he said, smiling. I got more defense reps than on offense. I had fun over there. Now, its about being effective. He did learn from watching his predecessors. And, he has some pretty good athletic ability. I think I can get off the end and Im fast, he said. I use my athletic ability that I have as a running back. His switch doesnt come as a complete surprise. Brooks Reed, now with the Houston Texans, told him hed likely be back at his more natural position at some point. I really didnt believe it, but I guess its happening, he said. My senior year I get to do it. These coaches say I could possibly make it at the next level. Im excited. While Tutogi might flourish, Nwoko is still feeling his way around. He didnt see the switch coming, but when Rodriguez told him about it I was was pretty excited, he said. He played linebacker a little in high school and now is learning the position all over again. But his enthusiasm to help is there. He did say his time on the offensive end has helped anticipate things on defense. Most importantly, hes back after missing last year with a knee injury. It was tough watching my teammates because I wanted to be out there, he said. Notable Rodriguez announced Washington's suspension after Tuesday's practice, citing unspecified team rules violations. For right now, hes not practicing, Rodriguez said. Hes got to do some other things before we allow him to join the Wildcats. Washington (6-foot-2, 268 pounds) had 18 total tackles last season after having 46 as a Freshman All-American in 2010.
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