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Arizona Wildcats

Arizona coach Rodriguez believes defense will be improved

Nevada tight end Zach Sudfeld catches a pass for his second touchdown of the gam as Arizona's Shaquille Richardson, left, and Jared Tevis defend during the first half of the New Mexico Bowl NCAA college football game in Albuquerque, N.M., Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012. (AP Photo/Eric Draper)

"The good and bad news is that they're all back."

Those are the words of University of Arizona football coach Rich Rodriguez, who was talking to SiriusXM's College Sports Nation about his defense's prospects heading into 2013.

That defense, you might recall, was one of the worst in college football last year, which was Rodriguez's first in Arizona. They allowed an average of 35.3 points per game, which was 11th in the Pac-12, and were last in total defense, giving up 499 yards per contest.

Be it via the ground or through the air, opposing offenses generally had their way with the Wildcats.

However, if Arizona is to build off a season in which it won eight games, the defense will have to improve. No one should expect them to be elite, but average would be a substantial step forward.

The coach believes it will happen.

"They're a year older, a year stronger," he said. "And we've simply got more bodies."

Rodriguez said his team started four walk-ons and two true freshmen in the New Mexico Bowl victory over Nevada. Arizona surrendered a whopping 659 total yards of offense to the Wolfpack in that one.

"A lot of those guys were simply playing before they were ready. It wasn't their fault, it was just that's all we had," he said.

As of now, that issue should be a thing of the past. A return to health from some as well as new additions on the defensive side of the ball will improve the depth and, hopefully, talent level.

"So at least now, we have a lot of freshmen who are going to play, which is kind of scary, but at least it gives us more bodies."

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