Quite frankly, not everyone expected junior Dominic Patrick to be the starting strong safety for the University of Arizona at the beginning of the season. However, throughout the 2006 campaign, Patrick has been one of the constant bright spots on the team.
Through the first eight games, Patrick ranks fifth among all Wildcats with 39 tackles. The most interesting statistic in Patrick's favor is that he leads the team in pass break-ups, with six.
Since Patrick has yet to record an interception on the season, you might think that he prefers to give an opponent a big hit, however, the lack of interceptions just has to do with timing.
"I would rather have an interception than a tackle," Patrick said. "But if I don't get there for an interception and catch the ball, then I plan on making them pay for it."
Although he wishes to add more interceptions to his statistical portfolio, Patrick knows that being a role player can help win games for the team.
"A hit or tackle can turn the whole motivation around," said Patrick. "If we don't have the juice that we need, or the pep in our step then a big hit can really motivate the team."
Other defensive standouts such as cornerback Antoine Cason and free safety Michael Johnson are ranked third and fourth respectively among all Wildcats, combining for 86 total tackles, three interceptions and four pass break-ups.
Johnson, Patrick and Cason are the stars of a promising young defense at Arizona, which is currently ranked 55th in the nation in pass defense and allows fewer than 200 yards per game through the air.
Patrick attributes the Cats' success to the diversity of the team.
"We all have different aspects to what we do. Some of us like to pick the ball some of us like to hit and tackle," said Patrick. "We all have different things that we bring which makes us a strong unit."
Even though there has been success for Arizona's defense, Patrick feels that that is not reason to quit striving for success.
"We've done okay, but we can always do better," Patrick said. "There is always room for improvement."
The Wildcats will get many more chances to improve as they travel to Pullman, Wash. this Saturday to take on Washington State Cougars.
Washington State's receivers are some of the best in the Pac-10, and that isn't going unnoticed in Tucson.
"The coaches were telling us that their receivers are probably some of the best that we've gone against," Patrick said. "Louisiana State has some pretty good receivers also but as far as Pac-10 goes, there are some pretty good ones that we're playing this week."
The Wildcats secondary will have its hands full on Saturday, but will do everything in their power to shut down Washington State's potent air attack, which is ranked 16th in the nation.