Nickel is worth something to Arizona

TUCSON — Oregon's "Blur" offense is just that, a green-and-yellow streak that stresses defenses by stretching the field both vertically and horizontally.

The only way to stop the Ducks' speed is with more speed; for the Arizona Wildcats, that means more Jourdon Grandon.

Arizona's starting nickel back is one of the team's most promising young players, a redshirt freshman with sharp instincts and impressive athleticism. The 6-foot, 180-pound Grandon has racked up 11 tackles this season, placing him eighth on the team, and has forced a fumble.

He was hardly used against Stanford and its power running game last week, but figures to play more Saturday night against the 10th-ranked Ducks.

Arizona coaches are optimistic that Grandon, 19, can help the Wildcats bottle up LaMichael James, Oregon's starting running back and a preseason Heisman Trophy candidate. Oregon ranks eighth in the country with 261 rushing yards per game; Arizona's defense, by comparison, is ranked 84th against the run with 173 yards allowed per game.

It'll take athletes — and execution — to stop the speedy Ducks.

"He's got to get bigger, stronger and faster, but he is really athletic," Wildcats defensive coordinator Tim Kish said. "He understands the game of football, and he has good instincts."

The Star talked with Grandon about facing the Ducks, his role in Arizona's defense and how he's faring in his first year on the field:

On stopping Oregon's offense: "They like to motion and jack us around a lot, get us out of position. One man's out of position and, boom, that's a big play."

On his role this year: "I'm doing whatever I can to help this team win. I'm playing nickel, and I'm going to come out here and do the best of my ability to help this team win."

On his training-camp injury: "I tore my meniscus and had to sit out for a couple weeks, but it's all good now. Yeah, I had to get a meniscectomy. They cut out the part that was torn, and I'm good to go now."

On his rehab: "You know, it was probably just about a couple weeks. A couple weeks after the surgery, and my swelling was at a minimum. That was a good thing. I think I sat out 31/2 weeks until the first game."

On his welcome-to-college football moment: "(Northern Arizona) was our first game, and I was out there playing. And then we played Oklahoma State. We got beat pretty bad, but the effort was there. The way I see it, I should be out there. I have to think like that, otherwise I won't be out there."

On the praise he has received from coach Mike Stoops: "It feels good, but I can't let that go to my head. I still have to work hard and do what I was doing at the beginning of camp."

On his long-term goal: "Hopefully, I can have a big role, become a big part of the defense — and, hopefully, become a star."

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