Arizona appears to be better on defense. We’ll find out more when the Wildcats travel to Seattle this weekend to face the new-look Washington Huskies. Helping lead Arizona’s defensive-resurgence is safety Tra’Mayne Bondurant, who is tied for the team lead with 19 tackles, including three for a loss and a sack. He also has a team-high three interceptions, two of them he’s returned for touchdowns. He took a few minutes this week to chat with the Pac-12 blog.
What’s working for you guys on defense? What’s been the difference so far this year?
Tra'Mayne Bondurant: We have a lot of experience. We’re more comfortable having another year in the system and getting that progression as a unit. We’re a family-oriented defense. We care about each other’s success. We want to make sure everybody is on the same page. Having that comfort aspect on the field, knowing who you are playing with, knowing they are going to do their job and you’re going to do yours, it makes us play even better. We’re a better defense just off of hard work. We know we’ve been through a lot and we want to make each other better.
How about you personally? What are you doing better this year?
TB: I’m just working harder. I have a stronger mindset and a lot of motivation behind me. I want to be a complete player and do what I can to help the team get victories and make plays. Over the summer I worked hard with the team and the trainers and made sure I put in the extra work. Right now it’s paying off for me and it’s something I take pride in.
Defensive coordinators who run the 3-3-5 always say it takes a couple of years for their players to completely get it. Do you feel like the team is grasping some of those bigger-picture concepts?
TB: I have a way better understanding having that familiarity with it and knowing the ins and outs. When you know what you have to do and focus on the big picture, it helps you go out and play fast. You know what you have to do and that makes everyone better and faster.
The defense took a lot of heat last year. Is that motivation for this year?
TB: Of course. We try not to pay attention to the media because people don’t know what we go through. But we know people were talking bad about us. It’s a new year for us to progress and we’ve figured it out over the summer. Everybody is making everyone accountable for everything. We know people will talk bad about us but we’re not worrying about that. We’re worried about going out there on Saturdays or whatever day we play and showing the world we are a better defense and we’re going to prove it every chance we get. It made us stronger as a defense and made us stronger as a family.
Do you feel like you guys have carved out your identity through these first three games?
TB: We wanted to go out these first three games and show we’re a good defense and a good football team as a whole. Every game we’ll get better. We haven’t reached our full potential. We’re going to keep getting better and work toward being that dominant defense we know we can be.
Two interceptions returned for touchdowns for you so far this year, that’s tied for first in the league. Can you explain to someone what it feels like to not only get an interception, but then to run one back?
TB: It’s the greatest thing to get a touchdown on defense. Your chances are very limited so when you do get your chance, you have to take advantage of it. I know the work I’ve put in is paying off. I’m just getting started. I’m trying to be consistent in my play so I can keep doing it.
You got the two touchdowns in back-to-back games. You said it doesn’t happen often, so that’s got to be like winning the lottery.
TB: It was a good two weeks for me. But I’m not at my potential yet. I’m just going to keep trying to get better every practice and every game and hopefully every game I can get one. I’m not going out there thinking about interceptions. I’m just playing for the team and if it happens, that will be great.