True freshman Derrick Turituri (45) hopes to help Arizona spring the upset of No. 5 Oregon today. - Photo courtesy of Arizona Athletics

Turituri a rising star

Physically blessed and internally driven, Derrick Turituri wasn't likely to sit on the sidelines too long after joining the University of Arizona football team this summer.

Still, even Turituri is blown away with the opportunity he's been granted as a true freshman with the Wildcats — and that opportunity just keeps increasing on a weekly basis.

"I'm really fortunate to be able to do this," says Turituri, who has played in all 10 games this year at Arizona. "I think definitely my offseason training helped because guys here are way bigger and faster than high school. It was kind of like a shock when we started playing all the Pac-12 schools but I think I've adjusted pretty well and it's pretty amazing being down here."

At 6-foot-1 and 252 pounds, Turituri has displayed the same versatility in Tucson, Ariz., that saw him become an all-conference dual threat in football for Crater High as well as a two-time top-four finisher at the state wrestling tournament.

From strongside (Sam) linebacker to middle (Mike) linebacker and now some defensive end, Turituri has done whatever he can to have an impact on Arizona's defense. Heading into today's matchup with Oregon (9-1), Turituri has made 10 tackles and 21/2 sacks and is coming off a three-tackle effort against Washington State that earned him his team's defensive player of the week honor.

"He can play a variety of positions and right now we're kinda plugging him into where he needs to be for us," says Arizona senior linebacker Jake Fischer. "He's done a good job everywhere we're putting him. Look for him the next couple years to really rise to the top of the pack along with some of the other freshmen we've got going."

Another true freshman linebacker, Scooby Wright, leads the Wildcats (6-4) in tackles with 70 and joined Turituri in a different defensive set last week that put them on the ends in a three-point stance and tried to take advantage of each player's unique athleticism.

"On my highlight film there was a lot of pass-rushing stuff on there and I think they saw that and tried that out and have me working at defensive end now," said Turituri. "I actually like the three-point now. I'm getting used to it, it's like a little sprinter's stance."

The only difference is the end of this finish line hopefully coincides with the quarterback. The best part is Turituri seems to be getting more chances at making that happen.

"Before I was probably getting like 10 snaps but the last game I probably got like 25 I think," says the 2012 Comet graduate, who admitted his first 'wow' moment came playing at USC earlier this year. "I've been working hard but I think it's more of the defensive scheme that we've laid out for the other team that sometimes we need more of a quick pass rush and that's when I'll go in. It's more just what we're doing that week and that's basically what my game time depends on."

Against UCLA two weeks ago, Turituri made a key tackle of quarterback Brett Hundley behind the line of scrimmage that forced the Bruins to give the ball back late in the fourth quarter to Arizona in an eventual 31-26 loss.

"He's just relentless," says Fischer, who is one of many veteran teammates that have taken him under their wing. "He goes as hard as he can every play. He's making a huge impact and the coaches really like him."

Besides the on-field exploits, Fischer says he's been impressed with how Turituri has carried himself as an 18-year-old first-year college student.

"He has a great work ethic and is in the weight room pushing himself every other day," says the three-year letterman. "He's doing all the things you need to do to be successful at this level. Sometimes freshmen don't really get it when they first get here but he already has a sense of what you need to do in order to succeed. It's not a very common thing but it's like he's already been in college for years."

That said, Turituri admits he has a long way to go and Fischer says the youngster is working more off pure talent than technical precision thus far.

"Obviously he came in already pretty developed and he's made for this level of college football," says Fischer. "He just needs to learn a few more things and once he does that he'll be a great player here."

"But until he knows exactly what he's doing at linebacker," adds the Arizona native, "he's a physical freak so they've been playing him at defensive end and telling him to just pin your ears back and go to the quarterback and he's doing great."

Turituri says a comfort level with the school, his coaches and teammates have made for an easy transition, along with having on the Arizona roster with him older brother Tyler Turituri (sophomore transfer from Portland State) and Crater classmate RJ Morgan (redshirt freshman).

Today marks the only matchup this season against a team from his home state — the Wildcats don't play Oregon State this year — and Turituri says the excitement has been building around campus for the matchup with the high-flying Ducks.

"I'm very excited to play Oregon," he says. "They're one of the top-ranked schools out there so it's going to be a really tough game. We're all going to have to play our hardest and try not to make any mental mistakes. Just like USC was when I was younger, I loved watching Oregon play, too, and always thought it would be cool to play them, too."

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488,, or

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