TUCSON, Ariz. — When Tra’Mayne Bondurant and Jared Tevis went down two weeks ago with separate injuries, there was no feeling of panic or despair among the Arizona Wildcats, even while knowing they are two are of Arizona’s best football players.
Instead, it was: Who’s up? And let’s go. In essence, UA defense coordinator Jeff Casteel said, it’s why they take their reps in practice.
In stepped sophomores William Parks (6-foot-1, 191 pound) and Anthony Lopez (5-11, 208), two seldom-used players who stepped right in and did their jobs.
“Parks is like my little brother, and I’m proud of him because of the two performances he put up,” said Bondurant, Arizona’s resident be-everywhere playmaker who suffered a concussion against Utah. “He’s been waiting for that (moment), and I’ve been telling him it’s going to come. He got his chance and stepped up.”
And in a big way, picking off a Colorado pass deep in Arizona territory with the Buffaloes entertaining thoughts of rallying from behind against the Wildcats. Arizona was in a zone coverage, Parks said, and “once I saw him throw the ball my eyes got wide and I was thinking, ‘Oh, man.’ I got it and that was pretty good.”
The realization of his first interception didn’t come to Parks until he was tackled after a 19-yard return.
“I saw (a teammate) say ‘come on, come on’ and once I got tackled I was like, ‘I just got an interception,'” said Parks, who added seven tackles and two passes broken up against the Buffaloes.
With Bondurant and Tevis, who suffered a knee injury against Utah, expected back for Saturday’s game against California in Berkeley, the opportunity to contribute might be just a momentary one for Parks and Lopez.
But head coach Rich Rodriguez did praise the work that they did while filling in, adding that Parks will likely continue to play in third-down passing situations.
“He’s one of the more athletic guys we have on defense,” Rodriguez said. “That was a nice pick he had. He’s still learning. Football is important to him, and you can see his confidence growing.”
Same for Lopez, who impressed Rodriguez by playing hard.
Both got a good taste of what it’s like to be on the field in critical situations — a confidence lifter for players and coaches alike.
“They done an outstanding job and they will have to continue to do that,” said Casteel. “The guys stepped up and that gives us a little bit of confidence in playing them. They answered the bell.”
Depth remains an issue across the board, but Casteel now has two more players with experience.
“They know (Parks and Lopez) can play,” said Bondurant. “We’re not worried. We’re happy they did the job.”